But there’s still much room for improvement
First of two parts
This college basketball season will feature at least 20 head-to-head matchups of non-HBCU teams coached by Blacks.
The Big Ten, for instance, has eight such matchups (MBB) and two WBB contests featuring the conference’s only two Black female coaches: Coquese Washington (Rutgers) and Marisa Moseley (Wisconsin).
All total this season, there are 15 Black WBB HCs in the Power 5 conferences: ACC and SEC, five each; three in the Pac-12; two in the Big Ten; and zero in the Big 12.
On the surface, it appears that progress in coaching diversity is finally at hand, but the latest NCAA demographics (2020-21) show almost 53% of Division I men’s basketball players and nearly 41% of women players are Black. The percentages of Black male and female head coaches are much lower: 24.3% Black men’s basketball coaches and 18.5% Black female basketball coaches.
“I understand that there are 14 of these [Big Ten MBB HC jobs],” admitted Penn State’s Micah Shrewsberry, one of five Black Big Ten men’s head coaches. “I don’t take that lightly.”
Kentucky WBB Coach Kyra Elzy, hired in 2020, is one of four SEC Black coaches. Her Wildcats will play Minnesota at Williams Arena Dec. 7. “It is an honor that Black females have not had,” she told us.
“I thank the Black female coaches that have paved the way, opened the door for people like me, to be in the position that I am in— C. Vivian Stringer, Marianna Freeman, Bernadette Locke Mattox, Dawn Staley. We understand the assignment and the responsibility. Obviously, we have to be successful in order to keep opening the door for people to come.”
The MSR recently asked Black coaches who will be in head-to-head matchups with fellow Black coaches on whether or not this is still significant. If so, why? If not, then have we reached the point that it’s no longer an exception?
Said Shrewsberry, “I still think we’re a little way away. If you can point out how many times it’s happening, it’s still an exception. I think there’s progress being made.”
“Obviously I think there’s still a lot of room for growth…especially in the Power 5 conferences,” added Washington, now in her second stint in the conference (Penn State, 2007-19). “We certainly have had some movement in the last couple years. We’ve had some good hires.”
Arkansas Pine Bluff Men’s Coach Solomon Bozeman said, “Black coaches are growing, and I think people are starting to take notice that we can coach.” His Golden Lions will play Minnesota at Williams Arena Dec. 14.
South Carolina Coach Dawn Staley said in an Associated Press story earlier this year that 2007 appeared to be a high-water mark for hiring Black female coaches: “A lot of Black coaches got opportunities during that time. And then probably three, four years later, 75% of them weren’t head coaches anymore, and they don’t get recycled like other coaches.”
Moseley, now in her second season at Wisconsin, noted, “I feel an incredible responsibility as a Black female here representing not only Wisconsin but in the Big Ten Conference. I’m excited [Washington] is given the opportunity at Rutgers.”
Jermaine Woods, who was hired in May as Coppin State WBB coach, told the MSR that some Black coaches may prefer not to be seen as Black coaches. “We run from the race thing,” he surmised, “and we try to hide it.
“I appreciate everyone I coached against, but it is a big deal when I coach against someone who looks like me. Representation is important.”
We continue our discussion next week.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.