Black head coaches living the dream

Photos by Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald (l-r) Jacksonville University Women’s Basketball Coach Darnell Haney; Jacksonville University Men’s Basketball Coach Jordan Mincy

Minnesota’s Williams Arena—“The Barn”—has held many historic events during its illustrious existence. Two occurred during a couple of weeks in November, witnessed by this longtime Gopher beat writer. But they hardly made a ripple in local media coverage.

The all-Black Jacksonville University (JU) women’s basketball team defeated the host Gophers on November 9, the first time a non-HBCU school with an all-Black roster came in and won at the Barn. Then last week, JU’s nearly all-Black men’s basketball team lost to Minnesota, but it was an historic meeting of two first-time head coaches: the Gophers’ Ben Johnson and Jordan Mincy of JAX. Both are Black.

Darnell Haney is now in his fourth year as JAX WBB coach and his ninth year at the school.  He’s a 2004 Florida A&M graduate in engineering technology with a master’s in athletic administration from Nova Southeastern University (2010). Haney coached in high school in Florida and once worked with beginning players, elite athletes, and professional athletes at Orlando’s The Edge Training Facility.

He was a Dolphins assistant for three seasons, then promoted to associate head coach for two seasons before being named HC in 2018. “My administration is great,” declared Haney. “I think they believe in me.”

Like Minnesota, which has 10 newcomers on this year’s roster, the Jacksonville roster this season also features 10 newcomers—six transfers and four true freshmen. Before his hiring, Jordan Mincy held assistant stints at Florida (2015-21), Louisiana Tech (2014-15), Toledo (2013-14), Charleston (2012-13), and Kent State (2010-12), and was a graduate assistant at South Carolina (2009-10). He also played at Kent State (2005-09) and earned a business marketing degree.

“You always kind of dreamed [of being a head coach], but when it comes you want to be prepared,” said the first-year HC after last Wednesday’s 55-44 loss to the Gophers.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport’s latest data (2020) pointed out that the numbers and percentages of Black coaches in college basketball goes up and down “ever so slightly.” There are fewer than 100 Blacks in men’s basketball, and barely five percent of WBB head coaches are Black men.

“I don’t take it for granted,” admitted Haney, who is in his fifth season among that single-digit percentage.

Said Mincy of fellow first-year Black head coach Johnson, “He is doing a great job. He has a lot of transfers very similar to ourselves. He’s trying to do it the right way.

“You try the best you can to recruit the best players you can,” continued the JAX coach on his first HC job. “You don’t take this opportunity to be head coach for granted.”

 Added Haney, “I’m blessed to be able to coach [the women’s team]. I’m blessed to be able to go to practice every day, man, and work and work every day. I want to make sure we prepare them for life.”

Mincy admitted that he roots hard for fellow Black coaches like Johnston, Haney, and others around the country. “Even though we play the game of basketball,” he said, “we also can coach the game of basketball at a high level.”