A Look at the Disappearance of Black Coaches at the Top of College Basketball

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports, April 1, 2014

Kevin Ollie will stand out at the 2014 Final Four.

The Connecticut coach is the new face amid long-established veterans, a guy who is less than 70 games into his head-coaching career. He is the one guy who had a long NBA career, playing 13 years in the league.

And, yes, he is the lone African-American head coach. That’s more important–and more unique, and more troubling–than you may think.

Kevin Ollie

Kevin Ollie

Black coaches at upper-echelon basketball schools are more rare right now than they have been in many years. There is a devolution of diversity on the sidelines.

Among the 28 basketball programs that have been to the Final Four in the last 15 years and hail from power conferences–Atlantic Coast, American, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, Southeastern–only two currently are led by black coaches: John Thompson III at Georgetown, and Ollie at UConn.

Those 28 positions are pretty much the “destination” jobs in the college game. And in a throwback to a more monochromatic time, they belong overwhelmingly to white men.

College basketball was once the most diverse hiring ground in sports. Yet 30 years after John Thompson won a national title at Georgetown and 20 years after Nolan Richardson won one at Arkansas, the road to the top has antithetically grown less-traveled for black men, not more.


A black coach has not won a national title since Tubby Smith did it in 1998 at Kentucky–he was the third in 14 years. In 15 tournaments since then, the number is zero.

Four reached the Final Four without winning it: Mike Davis at Indiana in 2002, Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech in ’04, John Thompson III at Georgetown in ’07, Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth in ’11. None of those teams were considered Final Four favorites: Indiana was a No. 5 seed; George Tech a 4; Georgetown a 2; VCU an 11. Ollie’s UConn team is a No. 7 seed. No black coach has had a team earn an NCAA tournament No. 1 seed since Lorenzo Romar did at Washington in 2005.

In fact, the year-in, year-out powerhouse teams led by black coaches have largely ceased to exist since Smith’s run at Kentucky started to wane after 2005 (from ’98 to ’05, he had five teams earn No. 1 or 2 NCAA seeds). When Davis was forced out at Indiana in 2006 and Smith left Kentucky a year later, the blueblood programs were once again devoid of black head coaches. (Davis was replaced at Indiana by Kelvin Sampson, a Lumbee Native American.)


College basketball’s dearth of coaching diversity isn’t just at the top level. It’s been a recent trend throughout Division I.


Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida, does an annual Racial and Gender Report Card for college sports on the makeup of coaches and administrators. In 2005-06, Division I college basketball had an all-time high of 25.2 percent African-American head coaches. That number had decreased to 18.6 percent by 2012, before rebounding this year to 23 percent, Lapchick said.

“We had to get the focus back on people of color in college basketball,” Lapchick said. “We have placed so much emphasis on increasing the number of African-American coaches in football that we hadn’t been paying as much attention to basketball. The lesson is, you’ve got to keep pressure on.”

But this spring has been a rough one for black coaches. Of the 25 jobs that have come open so far in 2014, 13 have been the result of black coaches being fired or resigning: Tony Barbee at Auburn; Jason Capel at Appalachian State; Louis Orr at Bowling Green; Clarence Finley at Central Arkansas; Ron “Fang” Mitchell at Coppin State; Greg Jackson at Delaware State; Mike Jarvis at Florida Atlantic; Cliff Warren at Jacksonville; Frankie Allen at Maryland-Eastern Shore; Stan Heath at South Florida; Jason James at Tennessee-Martin; Travis Williams at Tennessee State; and James Johnson at Virginia Tech.

Until a spree of diversity hires this week, only one school had filled a vacancy with a black full-time head coach: Kevin Keatts, formerly an assistant at Louisville, was named coach at University of North Carolina-Wilmington last week. Then on Monday, former Oregon head coach Ernie Kent got the Washington State job, Jason Gardner was named at IUPUI, and Hispanic Orlando Antigua of Kentucky was hired at South Florida.

Even presuming that Historically Black Colleges such as Coppin State, Delaware State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and Tennessee State fill their openings with minorities, college basketball could well be looking at a net loss in black head coaches from 2013-14 to 2014-15. {snip}


Not coincidentally, one of the established advocates for minority coaching candidates has all but gone out of business. The Black Coaches Association was headed up for many years by Floyd Keith, but he left the BCA last year.

In his absence there has been no BCA, and thus one less voice championing diversity and calling out the schools who disregard it.

“I’m very concerned that the BCA has gone dormant,” Lapchick said.

In one positive development, sources told Yahoo Sports that the NCAA is likely to fund a renewed BCA in the near future.


[Editor’s Note: See here for AR’s recent feature about black coaches in professional sports.]

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  • It used to be we only ever heard from the dork in Orlando with a fax machine twice a year. Now he’s giving himself an excuse to flap his gums all the time.

  • Tom Mixx

    All this is easily understood. They always make a splash when they first go into something, but soon afterwards, fade until they become nonentities. Happens in everything they put their hand to.

  • JohnEngelman

    Sports does not have an affirmative action policy. It is win or get out. That is why basketball is dominated by black players, but not black coaches. Winning coaches need more brains than winning players.

    • bob

      as usual, you are wrong

      see castefootball
      see coach hiring protocol
      see recruiting

      • Rainer

        There is no Affirmative Action that decides over winning and losing games. There is no Affirmative Action that decides, the teams with the black coaches must not rank lower than the teams with the white ones.

    • Svigor

      As I commented above, it’s also about the rarity of and demand for blacks with leadership skills, a modicum of intelligence, and enough character to coexist with civilized people. They’re quite rare, so they can easily find cushy jobs where they don’t need to win anything.

  • DaCoachK

    What about the “devolution of diversity” on the court? Or is it okay for the NBA to be 85% black?

    • AutomaticSlim

      “Or is it okay for the NBA to be 85% black?”

      As far as I am concerned it is fine.
      But I also believe it should also be fine for Wall Street firms to be 100% Non Black.

      • JDInSanD

        And I believe an all white basketball league should be allowed and that it would be very popular.

        • Svigor

          Their teams would also compete on equal footing with black teams, if they wanted to hold cross-league matches.

      • Svigor

        %$#@ Wall Street, I believe all WS firms should be 100% black.

  • So CAL Snowman

    “We had to get the focus back on people of color in college basketball,”
    Lapchick said. “We have placed so much emphasis on increasing the
    number of African-American coaches in football that we hadn’t been
    paying as much attention to basketball. The lesson is, you’ve got to
    keep pressure on.”

    I thought April Fool’s day was yesterday. This Lapchick guy can’t be serious.

    Pat Forde bemoans the lack of black head coaches in the college basketball ranks but fails to mention WHY this is a problem. He never mentions the fact that there are virtually no latino or asian head coaches. Hmmmm, I wonder why that is.

    • Truthseeker

      The thing that stood out about that quote to me was the underlying implication that there’s some conspiracy not to hire qualified minority coaches, and his little watchdog group is the only thing pushing back against it. If your job is running some sort of “diversity” institute, chances are you’re an idiotic leftist who gets a sense of importance from being an agitator.

  • Yawn. I don’t give a fig about sports. Blacks and their hijinks have ruined it for me. Many whites in sports aren’t very classy either these days. Mantle, Maris, and Yogi. Those were the days.

    • sbuffalonative

      I don’t care about organized sports either but I do support self-segregation.

      Blacks can have basketball. Keep them concentrated in their own sport which I can easily avoid.

  • Frank_DeScushin

    Why doesn’t the author do a little research and show the winning percentages of college basketball’s black coaches vs. whites coaches over the past decade. That would be a good indicator of whether the drop in number of black head coaches is warranted based on performance. My guess is yes.

    Aside from the white coaches likely being better strategists, I think that the lesser results of black coaches is largely a part of the black players. From what I have seen in sports, black athletes, for the most part, respond better under white coaches. It seems that (once again for the most part) black athletes see a black coach as “just another brother” and as a result feel that they can slack off more. They see the white coach as more of a disciplinary figure and act accordingly. Oddly enough, we often see the same dynamic in jobs and cities where black leadership takes over and black employees or citizens take that to mean that they can now act more black which is synonymous with less disciplined.

    • benvad

      I think you should research this theory and get it published. I never thought of it like that, it’s as if the white man is a wolf pack leader.

    • Tom Mixx

      A bit off topic (not sports related). A Pet Smart store opened around here a few years ago and they tried heroically to staff it with blacks, including a black manager. The store is now staffed 95% White with an one oriental woman and floating blacks who stay for variable periods of time before disappearing.

    • Svigor

      Yeah but that’s because YT sets black coaches up to fail.

  • APaige

    1 out of four of the final four coaches this year is Black. A Black coach has not won the championship in 15 years. Of the 25 job opening this year 13, more than half, are because Black coaches quit or were fired. (Which means they were first, hired) One quarter of all Division I basketball coaches are Black. It seems to me that Black coaches are getting more than an opportunity and are not being very successful.

    • And the last black head coach to win it, Tubby Smith at Kentucky in 1998, was using a team that Rick Pitino recruited. Once he was several years into the job, and his own recruiting classes came and gone, he wasn’t so hot.

      Kevin Ollie at U-Conn is heavily relying on the players Jim Calhoun recruited.

      • John

        Good spot there about Ollie at UConn. They won the Final Four ’99, ’04 and ’11. The article implies that he’s been with UConn long enough to have contributed to their past success. Not. He started in ’12 and has actually done a surprisingly good job so far numerically. This year is the acid test because he’s probably out of Calhoun recruits by now. Last time I watched a basketnuts game from start to finish was when UConn won it in ’04: then only because I have a favorite niece that was a sophomore there that year.

        • U-Conn’s hot hand this tournament was a Calhoun recruit.

          • John

            I didn’t know that,of course but it looks like that after this season, it’s all going to be Ollie’s show, for what it’s worth. I think we can all guess the rest of the story.

  • Romulus

    Bruthaball has never been a sport that I cared even the least little bit about, so,… I couldn’t care less.

    • Tarczan

      African jump ball doesn’t do it for me either.

      • Romulus

        What’s hysterical, is that a white man invented the game and prior to the 60’a was dominated by whites. I know of bob cousy, Bird and a few others. I can appreciate that it takes athletic skill, sure,… But being that I’ve been a realist since I was a small child (proximity to diversity and socially aware upbringing), once I saw the changes to our nation unfold and the near exclusion from the sport for whites, I lost all interest. The same goes for football.
        I also refuse to enrich them. There are alternative forms of entertainment that serve me better.

      • Svigor

        It’s an absurd sport. Running with a ball makes sense. Running while kicking a ball makes some sense. Hitting a ball with a stick makes sense.

        But running around bouncing a ball on the ground the entire time? WTF kind of sport is that? It’s absurd to watch. It’s the kind of thing a small child would find amusing.

  • leftists are delusional

    Well since all races are equal in ability the only reason there are more black basketball players in the NCAA is racism.

  • MBlanc46

    This never-ending whining about black coaches in sports–or the lack thereof–is like the drip, drip, drip of Chinese water torture. And yet never a peep about the incredible over-representation of blacks on the playing field.

    • JohnEngelman

      Before the civil rights legislation was signed liberals said that blacks excelled in athletics because they were not allowed to excel in the professions.

      • MBlanc46

        And that idea has been pretty persuasively debunked by now.

    • Grantland

      The freaks are sick in the head. You don’t argue with them. You smash their freak faces and impose common sense and logic by force.

  • 4321realist

    One solution to the black whining problem, whether it is this field or any other where loud lamentations are common for not having enough “people of color,” (but they really mean blacks, because they hate other people of color as much or more than they do whites)
    like Latin coaches, Latin teleprompter readers, Latin cops, etc., then ask them when they complain if they’re prejudiced against Latins.

    And tell them they need sensitivity training, and push them to get it.

    I’ll guarantee that there will be a serious shift from hating whitey full time into a sub category of hate directed at Latins.

    A psy-ops directed at creating division and intensifying existing hate among “people of color” would be a pretty easy thing to do, and if it were ever undertaken it would have them at each other’s throats in no time, giving whitey a much needed break.

    • benvad

      Fill it up with filipinos, that’ll drive the diversity crowd nuts. They’re colored aren’t they?

    • JDInSanD

      San Diego TV news has plenty of latinos and Asians and virtually no blacks. When blacks do show up it’s only for a short time until they are hired away by bigger markets. But it is funny watching them fumbling over Spanish place names like Escondido.

  • TXCriollo

    Lets go Wisconsin very white team good coach

  • sbuffalonative

    Black coaches at upper-echelon basketball schools are more rare right now than they have been in many years.

    Good Heavens! Another non-issue to fret over.

  • ViktorNN

    If you’re a Mexican or a black who is half decent at anything, doors fly open for you.

    And yet the retards still can’t make it, let alone run anything worth a damn.

  • De’Ontavious Jizzaiah Jones

    I don’t follow college sports but I have inferred that the objective is for colleges to have winning exciting teams that thereby reap money and prestige for the college rather than to hand out coaching jobs to any black who applies without concern for how team may fare. Lasting lie of civil rights era is that there would be temporary affirmative action leading into a state of complete equality when everyone would be judged on metit rather than skin color. That day never came because of money to be made from civil rights industry. Today’s Diversity is worse than the original AA.

  • JackKrak

    Please give us the name of one black coach who is better than a currently working white coach and is jobless just because he’s black.

    Just one.

  • Herman

    I am guessing black coaches do not want to pay their dues.
    They don’t want to spend years coaching at high schools, small colleges etc. in places like Montana before they get their chance..
    They want to start at the top or nothing.

    • Svigor

      And they’re right to feel that way. Corporate America or government will give a nice, high-paying, cushy job to any black with passable leadership skills, a modicum of intelligence, and a civilized manner. Why grind it out in a competitive field?

  • Joe blow

    IQ is destiny.

  • Svigor

    If you’re black, have leadership skills, and a modicum of intelligence, you’re a rare commodity and can find job with great pay and much better security than basketball coach.

    If you’re white, have leadership skills, and a modicum of intelligence, welcome to the crowd, the queue starts way back there.