Monday, January 15, 2007

MLK Day Special Report: African-American Coaches

As a special Martin Luther King Day feature, I will be looking at African-American college basketball coaches in the six power/"BCS" conferences. Most players are African-American, and most coaches are former players, so you can do the math...

I am doing this off the top of my head, I haven't check coaches biographies and resumes, so if I left anyone out, please feel free to make a correction via a Comment post or by sending me an email via the Contact via Email link on the left-hand side column.

Let's start with the ACC, which I will break down in three geographic areas:

  • ACC total, 7 of 12.
  • ACC-South, 4 of 4. Paul Hewitt became a star two years ago as he took Georgia Tech to the Final Four, playing an exciting and energetic style of play. The team is currently rebuilding, but they will be there once again as they have plenty of talented but young players coming in... Oliver Purnell quitely managed to turn Clemson into a contender in the ACC, as this time around, they managed to remain the last undefeated team in the country three games into the ACC season. With James Mays eligible this time, Clemson may become a Sweet 16 team this time around. Time will tell... At Florida State, the experienced Leonard Hamilton is on the verge of a break out that FSU has been waiting for the last few years... Meanwhile down at Miami, former Texas assistant Frank Haith is trying to rebuild in a city dominated by Shaq and D-Wade, and many things not-basketball.

  • ACC-North Carolina, 1 of 4. Sidney Lowe has taken over his alma-mater coming over as a Detroit Pistons assistant. So far he has managed to exceed all expectations given how few players he has available this season. He has also made a big splash on the recruiting trail by signing high profile talent such as JJ Hickson. Perhaps he is the one to take the Wolfpack out of the shadow of Duke and Carolina?

  • ACC-North, 2 of 4. Al Skinner has turned Boston College into a regular contender by blending the flex offense with crafty recruits, players who flew under the radar, or did not fit the ideal types/styles of other teams... Dave Leito, a Jim Calhoun protege and close personal friend has already managed to turn around Virginia after rebooting the DePaul program and he will be taking advantage of their brand new shiny arena. The future recruiting looks promising as well.

  • Big East Total, 3 of 16
  • New Big East, 1 of 5. Robert McCullum is facing a major challenge as South Florida was added to the Big East strictly for football. The basketball program is receiving a boost from competing in the Big East, but it is definately an uphill battle in the Monster Big East
  • Old-school Big East, 2 of 11. John Thompson III is his own man. He paid his dues, and he is blending the Princeton offense he learned under Pete Carrill with the Georgetown legacy of his dad. He is one of the up-and-coming coaches in the profession, with already one Sweet 16 appearance and plenty of talent in the pipeline, including touted DeMatha players... Norm Roberts was a highly thought of assistant before returning to New York to try to rebuild St. John's. Not an easy task, as St Johns is a commuter campus, in a city that has just about everything. It won't be an overnight success story, but Roberts is managing to keep some of the talented NYC players at home.

  • Pac-10, 3 of 10. Trent Johnson has returned to Stanford after a successful stay at Nevada where he manhandled everyone's favorite Cinderella, the Zags. Nevada's continued success is built upon the Trent Johnson foundation. At Stanford he has signed a number of talented players, including the Lopez twins, two athletic and versatile 7-footers, who some say maybe even better than the Collins twins at this stage of their careers. As with all young teams, there will be struggles, but the future is very bright at Stanford... At Oregon, Ernie Kent has managed to go from Hot Seat to Hot Coach as the pieces have finally started to fall in place with this group of talented players... Lorenzo Romar is not getting as much credit as he deserves at Washington, as he has managed two Sweet 16s and an epic loss against UAB two years ago, and has defended the home turf recruiting-wise against national powers (Duke, Carolina, UCLA, Kansas), and has produced NBA-talent in high-energy Nate Robinson and versatile Brandon Roy. This year's team is very young and will have its struggles but the future is very bright. As you may recall this team has been unlucky in the NCAAs, with a very close loss to UConn last year, and a very close instant-classic against UAB a couple of years ago. If they beat UConn last year, they would have probably been to the Final Four!

  • Big 10, 2 of 11. Kelvin Sampson is bringing back toughness to IU. His style of play is not for everyone since most of his Oklahoma games were unwatchable and without flow, unless one was emotionally invested in the outcome of the game. This may change a bit if he gets more talent, with Eric Gordon pulling a switcharoo (is this even a word?), and backing out of Illinois and committing to play in his home state... Tommy Amaker has the confidence of the Ann Arbor administration for cleaning up the mess at Michigan, but on the court he has yet to deliver an NCAA bid, which is what Michigan fans were used to in their glory days. The quick success at rival Ohio State which was also in trouble with the NCAAs is not making it easier for Amaker.

  • Big 12, 3 of 12 Mike Anderson is a rising star in the coaching profession. His UAB teams were fun and exciting to watch. He has already exceeded expectations at Missouri where he has taken the struggling Quin Snyder players and turned them into a fast-moving up-and-down team. This is just the becoming as he brings in more players that fit his style of play. This is Nolan Richardson-TNG for sure... A surpring choice, Oklahoma decided to scoop up one of the young promising coaches in the industry, VCU's Jeff Capel. This is not an easy job as Oklahoma is recovering from the Kelvin Sampson 500-call sanctions, and it is a football school after all, but it is a good fit for a young aspiring coach like Capel... Ricardo Patton is ending his tenure at Colorado at the end of this season, proving that perhaps staying at the same place for more than 5-6 years back-fires on a coach, unless national championships or final fours are involved.

  • SEC, 3 of 12. Tubby Smith is in his 10th season at Kentucky, a socio-politically significant hire. Tubby has managed to win, and is one of the classiest and more respectable coaches in the industry. The fans at Kentucky want Final Fours and Championships, and Tubby got them one in 1996, but that's ten years ago. The team had some strong regular seasons, but has not made the Final Four since, stopping at the Elite 8 in 2003, where Arizona and Kentucky were considered the two favorites. As you may recal, the NCAA Selection Cmte was in deep trouble because they had those two teams facing each other in the National Semifinal instead of the Final. But Dwyane Wade and Roy Williams spoiled the party for Arizona and Kentucky, and saved the NCAA Selection Cmte from a major mistake... Dennis Felton is rebuilding Georgia after the Jim Harrick situation, a team that could have made the Final Four had it not been for the extra-curricular activities. Felton's rebuilding is similar to Oliver Purnell's at Clemson. Georgia is having a good season this year, but the big push may come next year as they get older and get even more new recruits that fit Felton's system... Stan Heath is also rebuilding Arkansas, and he is on the verge of a breakout. Already an NCAA trip last year, and NBA early-entry talents in the books, this team is competing in a very deep SEC.

  • Relevant resource: Black Coaches Association

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