Some coaches and programs would prefer not to have a proverbial bull’s-eye on their collective back virtually each and every season, but Michael Robertson and the Owensboro Catholic Lady Aces have always been a little different in that regard.
They embrace it.
“We want the bull’s eye,” said Robertson, who begins his 11th season at the Catholic helm. “I’ve been in situations through the years where I was the hunter, but I would rather be the hunted, where, when the opposing team wins, it means so much to them that they take pictures in front of the scoreboard after the game.
“I’d rather be the hunted because when you’re the hunted, it means that you’re doing something right.”
Robertson has done plenty of things right since inheriting the program from his coaching mentor, Ray Zuberer.
In 2012-13, the senior season for high school All-American Becca Greenwell, Robertson coached the Lady Aces to their second of three All ‘A’ Classic small-school state championships. Robertson was an assistant under Zuberer when Catholic won its first title in 2011, and Robertson led the Lady Aces to another championship in 2019.
“It’s never easy to win a state championship of any kind, it’s a very difficult thing to do, so we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished through the years in the All ‘A’ — it means a lot to everyone associated with our program, as it should,” Robertson said. “We’re expected to win, and we demand the best.
“Those championships put us on the high school basketball map in Kentucky, and, at the same time, tremendously increased the expectations of the program, which carry on to this day and hopefully will be in place for years to come.
“I’m extremely proud of the culture we’ve established here.”
Under Robertson, in addition to the All ‘A’ successes, the Lady Aces have fashioned a 236-88 record (.728), have won five KHSAA 3rd Region championships, eight 9th District championships and have never experienced a losing season.
“I’ve been blessed with loads of talent that’s gone through the school the past 20 years,” said Robertson, who spent 10 seasons as an assistant under Zuberer. “Each year, Zube would give me more and more responsibilities, and I learned so much about coaching under him — he prepared me so well.
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“I have a strong passion for basketball, a strong passion to coach, and I made a commitment to make this program as strong as it could possibly be. I’m just persistent that way. I believe in hard work, and I’ve been around the game long enough to know there are no shortcuts — you get out of it what you put into it.”
Through the years, Catholic has taken on all comers.
“We play a very tough schedule,” Robertson said, “and I believe that’s been very beneficial for us once we’ve reached tournament play, be it All ‘A’ or the postseason — it has prepared us to succeed at a very high level.”
The Owensboro Catholic culture includes an elementary league where girls begin to play organized basketball in third grade, which requires plenty of parental involvement.
“They start ‘em young here in basketball, and that’s one of the things that has helped perpetuate the success of our program through the years,” Robertson said. “And this doesn’t happen without the involvement and the commitment of parents.
“We have a small-school environment, and so many of our players have grown up together and played basketball together since they were very young. This creates a bond that becomes very strong by the time they reach the high school level of competition.
“It has to be that ‘we over me’ mentality for us to succeed at the highest levels.”
Robertson said strong senior classes have helped make the Lady Aces’ program one of the most consistent in the commonwealth. This year’s senior group includes Katie Riney, Maddie Hayden, Lexie Keelin and Lauren Keelin.
“Our seniors have always been a tight-knit group,” Robertson said. “There have been times when I’ve wondered if we might be looking at a real rebuilding phase, but we’ve had strong senior groups cycle through here, and that’s allowed us to continue to have success at a pretty high level.
“This year’s group is no different, and I want to do everything I can to help them get to the top.”