LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The men’s college basketball coaching carousel barely moved a millimeter in 2020.
Blame economics, the novel coronavirus or 2020 being one of those years. Only 22 jobs opened, one (Wake Forest) at a Power Six Conference. You didn’t need a scorecard to start last season.
Not this off season. COVID moved into the background, economic issues subsided and pent-up demand for change resulted in 59 openings, including 13 at Power Six league positions.
Something else changed: Opportunities for Black coaches.
In 2020, 5 of 22 jobs (22.7 percent) were filled by Black coaches. You could argue the best opportunity went to Takayo Siddle at North Carolina-Wilmington or Stan Johnson of Loyola-Marymount.
The carousel tells a different story this year. Of the 52 jobs that have been filled, half went to Black coaches.
In a year when players pushed for social justice and greater opportunities, more doors opened in a game that has long featured more Black players than coaches.
“Is it encouraging? Absolutely,” said Jerry Eaves, the former University of Louisville point guard and Division I head coach. “No question there have been more opportunities.”
UNC-Wilmington and Loyola-Marymount would not have made the cut of the top 10 options this spring. The number of Black head coaches hired (26) is more than the total number of Division I jobs that opened after the 2020 season. There are 4- and 5-star jobs on the list.
North Carolina promoted assistant Hubert Davis, Indiana summoned Mike Woodson from the New York Knicks, Marquette recruited Shaka Smart and Minnesota chose Xavier assistant Ben Johnson.
Those 4 spots, as well as Boston College (Earl Gray); Penn State (Micah Shrewsberry) and DePaul (Tony Stubblefield) resulted in 7 opportunities for Black coaches at Power Six conference jobs.
The best jobs not filled by Black coaches were Texas (Chris Beard), Arizona (Tommy Lloyd); Utah (Craig Smith) and Oklahoma (Porter Moser).
Exactly one-fourth of the 76 jobs in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big East will be filled by minority coaches next season.
A former head coach at North Carolina A&T and long-time assistant in the NBA, Eaves has made the issue a priority on Eaves Sports Radio, which airs at noon on Monday-through-Friday on 1080 AM.
He and former Cardinal all-American Butch Beard, also a former Division I and NBA head coach, have been discouraged by the lack of head coaching opportunities at Louisville, which has never had a Black head basketball coach.
“That’s progress,” said Eaves. “If they succeed, they should be rewarded. If they don’t win they should be fired, just like any other coach.
“But if they get fired, they should get another opportunity just like so many other coaches get second or third opportunities.”
Carolina grabbed the spotlight by promoting Davis.
He played for Dean Smith, long celebrated for his commitment to civil rights in North Carolina. After a 9-season apprenticeship as an assistant to Roy Williams, Davis will move into the seat Smith and Williams filled as Hall of Famers.
Davis will do things the Carolina Way. All four staff members that he hired are former North Carolina basketball players, including former Bloomington (Indiana) North High School star Sean May.
Woodson will be Indiana’s second Black basketball coach. Mike Davis had a challenging six-season run when he followed Bob Knight in 2000.
In addition to hiring former IU player Dane Fife as one of his assistants, Woodson settled on a pair of Black assistant coaches — Kenya Hunter and Yasir Rosemond.
The glory days of Marquette basketball were directed by Al McGuire. He took over in 1964, 13 years after Marquette integrated its men’s basketball program. His best Marquette teams, including the 1977 NCAA champs, were led by mostly Black lineups.
Smart will be Marquette’s ninth coach since McGuire retired in 1977 but its first Black head coach.
Johnson, who will replace Richard Pitino, will be Minnesota’s third Black head coach, following Clem Haskins and Tubby Smith.
Earl Gray will be the second Black coach at Boston College, where Al Skinner ran the program from 1997-2010.
At DePaul, Tony Stubblefield will be the program’s third straight Black coach. At Penn State, former Purdue assistant Micah Shrewsberry will be the Nittany Lions’ second Black coach.
It’s only one off-season. By 2022, the numbers could swing back to the results of 2020. There are still multiple Power Six programs that have never been led by a Black head coach.
But more head coaching doors opened for Black coaches for next season.
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