Faith Johnson Patterson takes her rightful place in the Minnesota Girls’ Basketball Coaches’ Hall of Fame when she is inducted in this Saturday. She is the first Black female to receive this honor.
Patterson won five state championships at North (1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005). Then last month she won her second consecutive title at DeLaSalle, giving her a total of seven titles. Her 13 times at state ranks second all-time among coaches.
If she were White, by now statutes would have been erected around the city in her honor and hoops pundits would have fawning silly over Patterson’s accomplishments years ago.
“I thought to myself that now they are finally saying that after  trips to the state tournament,” she told me earlier this year, “[seven] championships, 18 Division I athletes, almost 400 wins — they are finally saying to me I am among the elite.”
Instead, Patterson’s feats were underestimated, undervalued and marginized — the three categories most Blacks are placed in. Some would whisper, “She has all this talent, so she should win,” the coach recalls. “I don’t think people look at me…being able to really understand the game of basketball from a technical aspect.”
Never mind that among the females she coached during her career were Tamara Moore, a first-round WNBA pick, and Mauri Horton, who played in a Final Four at Rutgers. Or others such as Mia Johnson, who starred at Michigan State, now an assistant coach at a Division II school while working on her master’s degree, and many more who would graduate from college and now are in careers in education and government.
“I don’t think a lot of people know that we teach,” Patterson points out, “but at the same time we’re teaching, we are there to help [the players] through barriers in their everyday lives that the average person don’t have to go through.”
More importantly, these young Black females see someone who looks like themselves. “You don’t see a lot of us in leadership roles as teachers, administrators, et cetera,” she notes.
Perhaps if Patterson were a different gender? “[Coaching] being a man’s world is not too far from the truth,” she continues. “It’s more accepted that a man knows more about athletics than a female does. It’s tough not only being an African American but also a female. You definitely are the lowest on the totem pole.”
“Better late than never” clichés don’t apply here. It’s an overdue honor but an honor nonetheless when Patterson walks into the Hall this weekend. “It’s an overwhelming experience to see yourself in this elite group,” she admits. “I’m so grateful that my mom and dad are still alive, and for the people that matter the most to be there to enjoy the moment with me.
“I’m honored to be respected among my peers,” concludes the incoming Hall member. “That’s a blessing and a dream comes true. There are very few of us [Black female basketball coaches] coaching, period.”
The Black Coaches & Administrators (BCA)’s latest “Huddle Up” edition announced the recent hirings of Black coaches: Terri Williams-Flournoy, formerly the head coach at Georgetown for eight seasons, now is in the same position at Auburn. Dartanya “Dottie” Porch is the new women’s head volleyball coach at Niagara. Karen Aston is the new head women’s basketball coach at University of Texas-Austin.
Former Louisville assistant Michelle Clark-Heard is now Western Kentucky’s new head women’s basketball coach. Danny Manning’s first head men’s basketball coaching job is at Tulsa — he has been an assistant at Kansas. Bashir Mason becomes the youngest Division I men’s head basketball coach when he was promoted from assistant to head coach at Wagner.
Gone but not forgotten
Our condolences to the family of Gary Tinsley, who passed away April 6. He was just weeks away from graduating from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. degree in business and marketing education. He completed his football eligibility this past fall, and played in 44 games during his Gopher career, starting all 12 games in 2010 and 2011.
Tinsley was a native of Jacksonville, Florida.
Did you know…?
Name the first Black coach to win a WNBA title, and the first Black coach to win an NBA title. (The answer in next week’s “View.”)
Answer to last week’s question: Minneapolis North graduate Tamara Moore, who went on to star at Wisconsin, was now-defunct Miami’s top pick in 2002. The 1998 Minnesota Miss Basketball and 2000 WNIT Championship MVP, Moore was once posterized on a wall inside the downtown Minneapolis arena. She was later involved in one of the Lynx’s most criticized trades when she was acquired for 2000 league rookie of the year winner Betty Lennox in her rookie season.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.