It’s not unusual that a Power 5 school plays an HBCU school in a non-conference basketball contest. However, this Saturday, November 13 in Washington, D.C., the Michigan-Prairie View A&M men’s basketball game is the first-ever HBCU Basketball Experience and the inaugural Coaches vs. Racism (CVR) Game.
CVR is a nonprofit national organization. Executive Director Darryl Woods told reporters during the Oct. 26 virtual press conference, “The reason we chose coaches is because we know that coaches are great teachers, innovators, role models, etcetera, and coaches also are great messengers.”
Two Black coaches—Michigan’s Juwan Howard and Prairie View’s Byron Smith—are on the sidelines. Having two Black HCs is coincidental, said Woods when asked by the MSR to speak on its significance. “It didn’t matter if these coaches were White or Black, to be honest with you. We chose the teams based on the conversations that I had with coaches because I just wanted to get an idea of what their thoughts were.
“Based on these conversations that I had with Coach Howard and Coach Smith, these were the two that we decided make the most sense.”
“We thought that it would be very good for us to get involved…,” noted Smith, “try to continue to share information and raise awareness that we are in a bit of times of discriminatory environment. I want to help as much as I possibly can, continue to educate your players about the issues that are in the front of us as a society. We want to be at the forefront of change if we can continue the conversation.”
“We have guys that come from different backgrounds,” said Howard, “…religious backgrounds as well as ethnic backgrounds. With sports, you bring all these together…how can we all just become together and form that brotherhood.”
Both coaches stressed that the game will not be a David vs. Goliath mismatch. “We want to try to play the best just to get gauged as to where we are,” stated Smith. “Michigan is probably at the top of our schedule. It’s a very tough, very competitive schedule.”
Added Howard, “We didn’t win an NCAA championship last year, so no entitlement on our end. [Prairie View] will be well-coached. This can be a very competitive game from a well-coached balanced team.”
Howard begins his third season as Wolverines coach. He won several top coaches honors last season, including Big Ten Coach of the Year and Associated Press National Coach of the Year. Michigan made the 2021 NCAA regional final.
Smith is in his sixth season at Prairie View A&M, where he led the Panthers to three straight SWAC regular-season titles. He has a 44-5 conference record in the past three years and is 64-19 overall in five years.
More importantly, both Black head coaches have mad respect for each other.
“There’s a lot of guys that come from the NBA. I don’t think that they really understand what it entails to be a college coach,” said Smith of Howard, who began his coaching career with Miami in 2013 after 19 NBA playing seasons. “He’s done one of the best coaching jobs in the country.”
“Thank you, Coach Smith,” said Howard. “That means a lot coming from a guy who’s done it before, and I know you’ve had an opportunity to witness a lot of coaches on the sideline. You never know who’s watching you.”
In addition to Saturday’s game, both teams plan to visit the National Museum of African American History. A panel discussion is scheduled with 1968 Olympic medalist John Carlos expected among the panelists.
Woods said plans are underway for the 2022 CVR game in Las Vegas. “We’ll probably have eight teams,” he predicted.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.