Southern hasn’t skipped a beat under coach Darius Robinson.
Last season, the Spartans went 13-2, undefeated in conference games, and all the way to a NCHSAA 3A championship title. Robinson, who is also the athletic director, replaced Adrian Jones as head coach after Jones left to take an assistant’s position at N.C. Central.
This season, the Spartans are ranked No. 1 in the state by the Associated Press, still unbeaten at 11-0, and winners of 24 straight games after earning their second straight Big Eight 3A Conference title with a victory Friday night at Orange High School.
Robinson spoke recently about the success of the football program and the entire Southern community.
What’s the biggest challenge of being a head coach?
Robinson: Being a head coach, you’re responsible for everything. I said to myself I would make sure that I would try to keep a good calm attitude towards everything, be firm when I had to and be lenient when I need to as well, and that’s what’s gotten me to this point – managing – because I have to put the effort forth to be a good manager.
Despite being a part of last season’s championship team, did you feel any pressure taking the reins from Coach Jones?
Robinson: My first six years in coaching was at NCCU behind Larry Little. I was able to observe him and how he operated. When I went to Hillside and then came here, I picked up something from each guy that I worked with. I also read and picked up a lot on some of the successful coaches that talk about the management piece – managing personalities, managing responsibilities, empowering coaches to develop them to become coaches one day – and that was my outlook on how to be able to continue what we’ve done.
What’s been the key to Southern’s football prominence?
Robinson: I was here when Coach Jones came in, and we always talked about what we had to do to turn this program around to be on the level of the Scotland Countys and the Butlers. And what it was, was developing the discipline, getting the right kids and getting the right chemistry and getting the community support, and that’s what we’ve done. Now everybody is buying into it. I’ve always said to people that you need to come over here and see what’s going on at 800 Clayton Road because it’s not only good football over here, (it’s) other athletics as well as academics.
Talk more about what’s going on at Southern.
Robinson: We have some great students and some great kids who are involved in our program. We just had to find the right staff to give them leadership in all aspects of Southern Durham. Southern is a special place. In the classroom and in the schools, we’re trying to get kids to believe in themselves and being positive role models and speaking to them positively and treating them like they’re good people, and that’s why we’re getting these results right now.
By us being a magnet school, that even pulls other students from all over. Now we are bringing in students that are a little bit more disciplined academically, so it’s even going to get better.
What’s your response to critics who say 3A is not the same as 4A, where Southern used to be?
Robinson: I don’t care what size the school is, you can only put 11 people on the field at a time. It comes down to the coaching, and it comes down to how you prepare your out-of- conference schedule and what you do in the playoffs. We feel like we can play against anybody in the state.
What are your future aspirations?
Robinson: I was able to experience the collegiate level, so I’m fine right here where I am. My vision of Southern Durham is to build a huge community environment that we can continue to put out good young people going to the next level of college. We are surrounded by so many neighborhoods. I want these stands to be filled every night, and the only way you can do that is consistency and continuity. I’m here. I’m content. I don’t have any making-a-lot-of-money aspirations. Living that lifestyle is really hard, and you’re pretty much year to year. I don’t want to put my family through that, so I’m content.