By Charles Hallman
C. Vivian Stringer has been head women’s basketball coach at Rutgers since 1995. Over 13 of her players later became WNBA draft picks.
She is a strong advocate for Black women choosing a coaching career. “I started coaching when I was 21,” she reaffirmed.
However, according to the NCAA Race and Gender Demographics report, barely 10 percent of Division I women’s basketball coaches are Black women.
“The next question is how many opportunities there are for minority women” today, Stringer pointed out.
“Generally when a female [coach] has been fired,” a male usually is her successor: White males make up over 88 percent of all head women’s basketball coaches, Stringer said. “You could say that there aren’t that many White females who are not applying — is that what’s going on? There have been a lot of coaches who have been fired this year — how many were women and how many were hired?”
Two Black women head coaches were fired this spring and replaced by White males. One of them was Jolette Law, a former player of Stringer’s who also served on her Rutgers staff as an assistant coach before getting her first head coaching opportunity at Illinois in 2007.
Stringer said Law “didn’t get the chance to finish her years. How long was the men’s coach [there] — nine years?” The men’s basketball coach, Bruce Weber, also was fired this spring.
The other fired Black female head coach was at Indiana: “I don’t know what happened to Felisha Legette [Jack],” continued Stringer on the second Big Ten female coach fired after the season.
Black women nonetheless must take advantage whenever and wherever a head coaching opportunity comes up. “A lot of times they don’t have a chance to work from the bottom up. Being an assistant coach in a program [will] have prepared you — [but] just as important is that you get a chance to fulfill your contract [when hired as a head coach]. To coach for three or four years, that is not enough to get it done. You have to have time to establish [your system],” believes the longtime coach.
“I think it is up to [a female] coach to decide” when she is ready to apply for a head coaching job, Stringer acknowledged. “There is no question in my mind: Jolette was ready, and is ready for that high level. I’ve had a number of assistants — she is ready.”
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