Brown promotes assistant Agel to fill head-coaching vacancy

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Brown University didn't look far for its new men's basketball coach.

The Ivy League school announced Monday that it has selected assistant coach Jesse Agel to replace Craig Robinson, the brother-in-law of Barack Obama who left after two seasons to take the head coaching job at Oregon State.

Agel was Robinson's assistant for two seasons. Before coming to Brown, the 46-year-old was an assistant at Vermont for 17 years.

He inherits a Brown team that won a school-record 19 games last season, swept Penn and Princeton for the first time in school history and finished second in the Ivy League behind Cornell. Brown also earned a bid to the inaugural College Basketball Invitational but lost in the first round.

The Bears have not won an Ivy League title since 1986, their last NCAA tournament appearance. Agel said he hopes to change that.

"Our goal's going to remain the same, which is the relentless pursuit for Ivy League championships," he said.

Agel said he was grateful to Robinson for hiring him as an assistant and credited him for putting his "stamp on this university."

Robinson, a two-time Ivy League player of the year at Princeton and a former assistant at Northwestern, won more games in his first two years -- 30 -- than any other Brown coach in the same time period. He left the school in April.

"One of the biggest things he did is he put our team mentally and physically in a position that every night they walked into a gym they felt like they could win the game," Agel said of Robinson.

"That's what I'm inheriting right now, is a program that is clearly on the rise," he added.

Brown will have to make do without its two leading scorers from last season -- Mark McAndrew and Damon Huffman -- who earned first-team All-Ivy honors and graduated.

Brown athletic director Michael Goldberger said at a news conference that Agel's basketball expertise rivaled that of the top coaches in the country, but that he was most impressed by Agel's coaching philosophy.

"In Jesse's application, he says 'the successful coach is an educator. Coaching is all about teaching," Goldberger said.

Robinson's sister, Michelle, married Obama in 1992, and Robinson was a prominent and visible booster for the Democratic presidential candidate in his two years in Rhode Island. The family ties brought the basketball team a slice of national attention totally independent of its performance on the court.

Asked whether he and the team would continue following presidential politics, Agel joked, "I got a little nervous when they started looking to see who my brother-in-law was and all that," before adding that, no, he would not discuss politics with his players.