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BERKELEY

If Michelle Obama is the First Lady, then Craig Robinson is the First Brother-In-Law.

Let me explain. Robinson happens to be the basketball coach at Oregon State and he also happens to be Michelle Obama?s brother. In addition, he happened to be in Berkeley Thursday night where his Beavers played the Cal Bears.

He left his team for a few days earlier this week because there just happened to be a big celebration in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday ? a new President and all that. After the festivities, he flew west on Wednesday and met his team at the Oakland Airport.

There happen to be other things about him. He has the same face as his sister. I want to be clear on this. On him the face is masculine and on Michelle it is feminine. They are both good-looking people, and their voices contain the same lilt and they laugh the same. Robinson would not say, one way or another, if he is protected by Secret Service now that he?s the First Brother-In-Law.

?I cannot comment on that,? he said. Someone who covers the Beavers basketball team says there is no discernible security around Robinson.

After arriving in Berkeley, Robinson conducted a conference call because a ton of media wanted to know about the inauguration and the balls, and he had been there. Let me get the controversy out of the way right away. He was wearing an orange-and-black scarf at the inauguration, and someone on TV said he wore a Princeton scarf because he went to Princeton.

?It doesn?t need clarification,? Robinson said. ?It was an Oregon State scarf given to me by one of our basketball supporters.?

Turns out both schools? colors are orange and black. Does that make Oregon State the Princeton of the West?

Robinson said he first met Barack Obama 16 or 17 years ago.

?I thought he was a terrific guy who was smart and funny,? Robinson said. ?He was laid-back and down to earth and at the time he was a law student doing some community organizing. I thought he was a guy who had his heart and soul in the right place. As it turned out, my impression was correct.?

For years, Obama has phoned him after important basketball games, even when Robinson was an assistant coach. Obama called a few weeks ago after the Beavers beat USC in Corvallis.

Leading up to the inaugural festivities, Robinson stayed at Blair House but during the inauguration someone moved his luggage to the White House, where he slept in the Lincoln bedroom. On Inauguration Day he got up at 5:30 in the morning for a prayer service and he attended the inauguration and the parade and the Neighborhood Ball and the Home States Ball and finally got back to the White House at 1 a.m., when the family shared a light dinner and he went to bed at 2:30 and got up at 4 to catch his flight to Oakland. Along the way he hung around with Bill and Hillary Clinton and Ted Kennedy.

?As you remember,? he told the sportswriters, ?he (Ted) was one of the first big names to come out and support Barack.?

Right, and please give Bill and Hillary and Ted our best. Hey, I?m writing this stuff in a normal tone, but who in the world gets to do things like this? Kind of makes you drool.

Did the event measure up to what Robinson expected?

?I had my expectations set as high as can be and this exceeded it easily,? he said. ?The magnitude of the pomp and circumstance was a treat to see up close. The amount of people I expected was surpassed fivefold. The feeling of patriotism and community, even the balls were better than I could have imagined.?

Did he feel like he had a front-row seat to history?

?You see Magic Johnson and Oprah Winfrey and Billy Ray Cyrus,? he said. ?You see big stars and you know they?re stars and they?re standing there in awe of what?s going on, and you see them standing there next to Mr. and Mrs. America.?

FYI, Robinson scheduled team practice during the inauguration.

?We couldn?t miss it,? he said, like a coach. ?Our practice time is that time every day. We had it scheduled before I was thinking the inauguration was anything I would go to. We couldn?t have it another time because of their class schedule. They should have been in class, anyway.?

He said he?s happy all the excitement is over.

?My love and passion is coaching my guys,? Robinson said. ?I?m glad to have some of the distraction taken away and put my focus back on Oregon State basketball.?

Well, it?s a little more interesting than that.

Question: Will the association with the First Family help Robinson?s hoops program?

Answer: ?It?s hard to quantify it. The recruiting business is a marketing and brand-awareness business. This notoriety and national exposure is absolutely going to benefit Oregon State University basketball as well as Oregon State University.?

No kidding. The Beavers have gone about scheduling early-season non-conference games near D.C. On every trip East, Robinson can tell his players, ?Hey, I?d like you to meet my sister and brother-in-law. They live in a nice big pretty mansion in the downtown area.?

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular go to the Cohn Zohn at blog.pressdemocrat.com/cohn. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at 521-5486 or lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.