Rob Lanier named Finalist for Ben Jobe Award

The new Georgia State Basketball Coach Rob Lanier. Photo courtesy of Georgia State Athletics

Former Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier was named a finalist for the Ben Jobe National Coach of the Year Award.

The Ben Jobe Award, presented annually to the top Division I minority coach, is named in honor of one of the best men ever to coach college basketball.

Ben Jobe coached in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Southern University for 12 seasons. He held a 209-141 record and made four NCAA Tournament Appearances. Many still regard Southern’s 1993 upset over two-seeded Georgia Tech as one of the greatest upsets in tournament history.

Coach Jobe’s impact was not only on the players on the court but the people off the court in the Baton Rouge community.

Former Alabama men’s basketball coach Avery Johnson, a player under Coch Jobe, had nothing but kind words to say about his impact on him as a man.

“He taught me a lot about [being] a man,” Johnson said. He promised my mom that I would get my degree.”

Coach Lanier embodies everything that Jobe represents. He was one of the four minority coaches in the Sun Belt Conference and led the only school out of Georgia to the NCAA Tournament.

The journey to the big dance did not come without many bouts of adversity. The Panthers were plagued with nagging injuries and had several COVID-related game cancellations throughout the season.

When conference play began, the Panthers had their first two games canceled because of COVID; they then hit a roadblock losing all four of their opening conference games.

Lanier kept a calm presence with many disadvantages and everything going against him as the team turned things around and rode a seven-game win streak into the conference tournament.

In the tournament, the Panthers defeated the Arkansas State Red Wolves in the quarterfinals, which set up the revenge game against last year’s champion Appalachian State in the semifinals.

The championship game was nothing short of spectacular as Lanier coached his players into a complete dominance of the Lousiana Ragin’ Cajuns, capturing Georgia States’ fourth Sunbelt title and sixth NCAA tournament appearance.

Since their 0-4 start in conference play, the Panthers flipped a switch and were reeling on a 10-game win streak as they led the Sun Belt in rebounding, turnover margin and steals.

Lanier’s effect on the Panthers did not go unseen as he was among the 25 coaches named as finalists for the Jobe Award. Memphis head coach, former Orlando Magic star Penny Hardaway and fellow Sun Belt coach Richie Riley of South Alabama were also finalists.

Ultimately, University of Houston’s head coach Kelvin Sampson received the prestigious award as he led the Cougars to a 32-6 overall record and repeated as American Athletic Conference Champions.

Sampson has spent 29 seasons coaching Divison I basketball as he was named AP Coach of the Year in 1995 and has achieved two final four appearances with two different programs.

He also broke down barriers, as when he joined the University of Indiana, he became only the second minority coach in Hoosier history.

As Rob Lanier transitions to his new stage in coaching at Southern Methodist University, it would be to no one’s shock if he is named a finalist once again and ends up even winning the award.