I f you listen to the same old pundits, analysts, announcers — self-appointed coaches’ headhunters — who excessively yak about job openings and who should get them, they mostly talk about non-Black candidates. College Basketball Insider’s Jeff Goodman recently listed only 14 Blacks among his list of 77 “potential candidates” for openings, but no Black coaches who have been fired made Goodman’s list.
Furthermore, if you’re a fired White coach, seemingly you almost immediately are rehired someplace else. Bruce Weber was hired by Kansas State less than a month after he was fired at Illinois. But Jolette Law (Illinois) and Felisha Legette-Jack (Indiana) both are looking for work after the two Black women head coaches were axed last month.
The annual rehire coaching carousel goes round and round, but rarely do fired Black coaches get a ticket to ride.
East Coast-based lawyer Jason Belzer’s article in INSIGHT Into Diversity’s February 15 issue (www.insightintodiversity.com) examined coaches’ hiring and firings over a 10-year period (2001-11) “at every school and every conference,” he told this columnist recently during a phone interview. Among his findings, he noted that approximately 20 percent of the Big Ten men’s coaches were Blacks and other persons of color, but they also accounted for 50 percent of the fired coaches as well.
He also found that approximately 22 percent of the 340 Division I schools hired Blacks or other persons of color.
Belzer explained, “As we started looking at the data, we began to notice…that Blacks were given a shorter span than Whites [to build or sustain a successful program]. Then we expanded the data to see how often Blacks are hired in the first place, and how often they are fired, and add whether or not those statistics match up in terms of Blacks being fired in higher rates than Whites.
“The majority of conferences that tended to employ minority coaches more often also tended to fire or force them to resign at a greater rate,” he surmised.
Is it racism or culture? Belzer answered: “I think this is an issue that needs to be addressed…but it’s up to the people with the real power.”
Those “real power” folk Belzer was referring to are not the television and sports talk radio “headhunters” and king-makers, but instead the athletic directors, presidents, and depending upon the college or university, the boosters — all three groups are usually White. And in such rare cases when the AD is Black, they don’t always hire a coach that looks like them.
“To be a good coach, you need some time to develop your expertise,” believes Swish Appeal’s Nate Parham (www.swishappeal.com). “I think one challenge for Black coaches is if you don’t get that first [head coaching] job at a mid-major, it’s harder to get that big promotion job at the next level. Then [after getting hired] if you don’t do well, you are going to get fired.”
Also he adds that when Blacks are evaluated for coaching jobs, “People tend to look for other qualities than intelligence [such as] charisma. I think the true measure of a coach is do you get the most out of your roster.”
Women’s job openings are rarely discussed, which shouldn’t be that surprising given the fact that women’s basketball is rarely seen, let alone recognized in the same stratosphere as the men’s. You probably don’t know that both Law and Legette-Jack became unemployed head coaches not soon after their seasons ended.
“The issue of [few] Black female coaches need to be addressed” at both the collegiate level and WNBA level, notes Parham. “I think the big issue is that there have to be more Black coaches, not so much at the big level, the top tier programs, but at the mid-major level and lower, to get that experience on how to be a head coach and how to run their own team.
“There need to be more Black coaches, not necessarily at the power ranks but at the mid-major ranks,” says Parham.
In the end, that tired old axiom, “Coaches are hired to be fired” should be amended:
“All coaches are hired to be fired, but if you’re Black, being hired happens less frequently and being fired happens more often than Whites.”
Did you know…
Name the only Black coach to win a NCAA women’s basketball championship, and the only other Black female coach besides DeLaSalle’s Faith Johnson Patterson to win a Minnesota high school girls’ basketball championship. Hint: both feats occurred in the same year.
Answer to last week’s question: Eight Black coaches have won at least one state high school boys’ basketball title: Reggie Perkins (Washburn, 2009), Vern Simmons (St. Paul Johnson, 2010), Brett McNeil (North, 2003), Larry McKenzie (Henry, 2000-03), Charles Portis (St. Paul Highland Park, 1999), Robin Ingram (North, 1995-97), Louis Boone (Washburn, 1994) and Tony Queen (North, 1980).
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.