by Tom Brennan
was my birthday, May 2, 1993, and Kevin Roberson was among a group of
friends who had gone out to dinner with me to celebrate. When we were
leaving the restaurant, I remember looking at Kevin and thinking how proud
I was of that guy. How proud I was to have had a part in bringing him
here, seeing what hed done and would continue to do. Forget what
he does in basketball, I thought, hes just such a special person
to so many people. I didnt know, of course, that it would be the
last time Id see him.
Six days later we got the call that Kevin and his sister Michelle had
been killed in an accident with a drunk driver. Hard to believe that sad
day will be ten years in the past this spring. Im amazed at his
presence here still. Hes with us in this gym, on this campus, and
in this town in so many ways.
show every recruit we bring in a videotape of Kevin. If you come here,
this is what youre shooting for. If you can get anywhere close to
this, then youre going to have a fine, fine time at UVM. And were
not just talking about blocking shots and making baskets. Were talking
about dignity and humility and determination and leadership.
Tough to say what gave Kevin more of a beating early on during his UVM
days, Joe Calavitas elbows or the engineering curriculum. Joe was
our senior center, and he outweighed Kevin by easily a hundred pounds.
It was a long time before Kevin made it through a full practice. Hed
get hit, go to the bench and ice up, when the ice melted hed come
back on the court, get hit and start the cycle all over again. But he
kept coming back.
Same thing with engineering. Kevin was determined to be an engineer, just
like he was determined to play in the NBA and there was never any wavering
in that. I remember him coming in here and opening his engineering textbooks
on my desk, shaking his head and saying, TB, look at this. Look
at this. Often he didnt have one-tenth of a grade point more
than he needed to have, but, you know what, he did it and he would have
been a great engineer because he worked so hard.
Kevin put that same work ethic into his basketball. Kenny White, Kevins
roommate, deserves a lot of credit for that. Kenny just raised the standard
as far as what was acceptable for the work level of a University of Vermont
basketball player and other guys bought into that. Kenny, Kevin, Matt
Johnson, Rahim Huland El, and the Tarrant brothers, those guys all stood
out as very hard workers.
Kevin was a hard worker, but he needed to be convinced that it was worthwhile.
He never wanted to be on the road any more than he had to, for instance.
A lot of coaching mentality is that you are going to war. You travel the
day before the game, you hunker down, you have a meal, you go see a movie
like Gladiator, and the next day youre ready to go.
But Kevin liked to sleep in his own bed. Hed say, Look, Ive
got these four engineering projects Ive got to do. You know Im
going to run through the wall for you, TB, but really, there aint
no need for us to go down there tonight.
It got to the point where we stayed home when he wanted to stay home.
He wanted to go, we went. When you know a guys going to give you
fifteen points and fifteen rebounds, you listen to him.
Freshman year, Kevin was nothing. Sophomore year, he really started to
come on. Junior year, he was the man. I remember we had a game at St.
Mikes that season where he was really laboring around for most of
it. He really didnt get much done in the game, then all of a sudden,
the last five or ten minutes of the game, Kevin just dominated, a take-
your-breath-away type of performance.
I remember saying to the media after the game, Lions may sleep eighteen
hours a day, but when they wake up theyre still king of the jungle.
After that, Kevin was always known as The Lion on our team.
And it made sense, I think, because he really had great dignity. He was
like royalty, always reminded me of that. Every year he just kept getting
better and more dominating, but he never lost his carriage, his dignity.
He just had a good sense of who he was and what he was trying to do.
My first impression of Kevin had been how quiet and introspective he was.
The more I got to know him, I saw that as one of his greatest qualities.
He was a fabulous listener. He just had a way about him of listening,
then saying something that not only made you laugh, but made you understand
that he got it. Hed make a quick little joke, but it had some poignancy,
a little message in it. He just got it, he got it from right away.
It was that kind of grace that allowed him to cross boundaries, to handle
being a black student on a mostly white campus. At his funeral in Buffalo,
there were 2,000 people there and 1,900 of them were black. And then we
came back here and we had a memorial service and there were 1,500 people
and 1,450 of them were white. I remember when I spoke at his funeral,
I said that Kevin was the color of love.
Weve got a mission statement for our basketball program that says
we want to bring people here who are going to make the community better,
make the university better, and make our team better. Kevin far and away
did all of those things, and you cant ask any more of a person than
that. Lion, we miss you, man.