This season at Williams Arena, Gopher basketball fans will see a total of eight schools throughout the year led by Black coaches in both men’s (four) and women’s (four) hoops.
According to the latest NCAA demographics, in all sports at all three divisions, including HBCUs, Blacks make up only 11 percent of head coaches and 18 percent of assistant coaches. In college basketball in particular, the percentages are a tad higher: 21 percent of HCs, 38 percent of ACs (MBB), and 21 percent of HCs, 37 percent of ACs (WBB).
These percentages are lower than the percentages of Black basketball student-athletes: 44 percent in MBB and 29 percent in WBB.
Among the oft-repeated reasons for the low number of Black coaches is the fact that those who typically do the hiring aren’t Black.
“Basically, the Black assistant coaches…hold up the other White coaches,” stated Bethune-Cookman MBB Coach Reggie Theus. The former NBA player, head coach, and veteran college coach didn’t pull any punches when he spoke to the MSR after the Gophers-Wildcats contest on November 6.
There are plenty of Black coaches who are deserving of a head coaching opportunity if only they got the chance, said Theus. “You just have to be cognizant of the good things that the assistant coaches are doing.”
“I think that representation is so important,” added Wisconsin WBB Coach Marisa Moseley. “I would love for us to get to a point where we’re not having to talk about the first of anything that has just become part of the fabric of who we are.”
Way too long and way too often Blacks are typecast as only recruiters, not Xs and Os coaches. That, Theus noted, “is the system—right or wrong.”
“When people see me, I want them to see a strong Black woman,” noted Long Island University WBB Coach Rene Haynes. Her team played Minnesota at Williams Arena on November 8.
This season, the Minnesota women also are scheduled to play Chicago State, Norfolk State, and Grambling State at home, and at Kentucky in non-conference action—all teams that feature Black head coaches.
The Gophers men still have non-conference home games against Missouri and Arkansas-Pine Bluff, both with Black head coaches.
“I think we always tried to use our platform in every single way possible to expand diversity, whatever that diversity might look like,” said Minnesota’s Ben Johnson, the school’s only Black male head coach and one of two Black head coaches overall. “There’s a lot of talented coaches across the country, whether it’s at an HBCU or at a Power 5, or a mid- or low-level, that do a really phenomenal job.”
On November 6, the South Carolina and Notre Dame women’s basketball teams made history twice when they began the 2023-24 season competing against each other in Paris for the first time in NCAA history. That game also featured two Black female HCs.
Events like this shouldn’t be seen as exceptions, but should rather become the rule.
“I certainly understand the historical nature of the game in terms of two Black coaches going up against each other in a non-conference game,” said Theus. “Anytime you see Black leaders, Black coaches in leadership positions, I still think that’s important… To me, as important as any message that is sent to the players.”
With nearly eight times the number of White college head coaches as Black head coaches, and nearly three times as many White assistant coaches as Black, will these longstanding diversity gaps ever narrow?
“We’re closing that gap a little bit,” said Haynes.“I think that what we have to do [as Black coaches] is make it as close as possible. Whether you feel it’s close or far, you make it closer for the next person that comes behind you and make it closer for the next person.”