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April 17, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Mailbag: No disrespect, but another assistant who’s a black woman could coach at Washington

Washington has begun its search to replace women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff. And already I’ve heard rumors that because Tia Jackson failed as a coach, the Huskies wouldn’t hire another black woman assistant for her first head-coaching job.

This isn’t fair to coaches like Charmin Smith, the longtime assistant at California, and others who should receive consideration for the job. Or to UW, which, I assume, will hire the coach it thinks is best for the position.

True, UW’s hire of Jackson didn’t work out. She is a talented recruiter, earning praise for the skill at Duke and now as an assistant at Rutgers. Jackson recruited good players to Washington, too, including PG Jazmine Davis, the Huskies’ leading scorer last season and the Pac-12 freshman of the year in 2012.

But the example of Jackson’s unsuccessful run as a first-time head coach should not be a sweeping assessment of black women first-time head coaches. Nearly all current black women head coaches were assistants first. C. Vivian Stringer, Dawn Staley and Cynthia Cooper-Dyke are the only exceptions I can immediately remember.

Staley and Cooper-Dyke entered the field with instant credibility because of their success as Olympians, WNBA and college players. Staley, now at South Carolina, started her career at hometown Temple. Cooper-Dyke, after coaching the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, coached in college at Prairie View A&M, UNC Wilmington, then Texas Southern, before being hired at USC last month. Stringer was the trailblazer. She coached and taught at Cheyney State College (now Cheyney University), a historically black school.

Successful coaches like Nikki Caldwell (LSU), Coquese Washington (Penn State) and Terri Williams-Flournoy (Auburn) spent decades as assistants before given a chance. And to think other candidates outside of famed former players ever had the opportunity to skip the natural progression to being a head coach, like men or even white women, is ignorant.

This isn’t to say top recruiters Smith, Niele Ivey (Notre Dame), Samantha Williams (Louisville) or Marisa Moseley (Connecticut) would make great head coaches. They should be considered as leading candidates, however, based on qualifications they’ve shown as assistant coaches. Jackson’s failure as UW’s first black woman head coach shouldn’t even be a thought or cautionary mistake UW doesn’t want to repeat.

It should be striking there’s not more balance in race or gender. And we haven’t even begun to talk about salary disparity, where McGuff was paid twice as much as Jackson at UW and whose reported $1 million annually salary at Ohio State joins an echelon that, based on figures tallied in 2011, is rivaled only by UConn coach Geno Auriemma ($1.6 million), Baylor coach Kim Mulkey ($1.1 million) and Stringer ($1.1 million). In short, coaches who’ve achieved much more than McGuff.

UW athletic director Scott Woodward is already on record that he will not pay McGuff’s successor a seven-figure contract. Ohio State will pay Washington a $1.75 million buyout to break McGuff’s contract, which was extended through the 2020 season in March. Based on McGuff’s annual $475,000 base pay at UW, the buyout will refund the full $950,000 guaranteed money he made in two seasons on Montlake plus up to $800,000 in profit. A black woman, or any coach, is unlikely to see even that profit as a base to her contract, however.

But she’d have to get an earnest interview first.

“In contrast to the past several years where positive steps were made in terms of achieving greater equity in the hiring of head coaches in NCAA Division I women’s basketball, the 2011-12 HRC (Hiring Report Card) reveals a slight decline in a number of significant areas,” wrote Carol Owens, president of the Black Coaches and Administrators organization in a foreword for a report about the industry based on research spearheaded by Dr. Richard Lapchick and The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

“The HRC shows a decline in the number of diverse candidates receiving interviews, and also a decline in the diversity of hiring search committees,” Owens continued. “This decline makes evident that more work needs to be done to ensure a commitment on the institutional level towards growing opportunities for diverse populations in intercollegiate athletics.”

Floyd Keith, executive director of BCA, intimated the same before the launch of the Hiring Report Card for women’s college basketball, including all minorities and both genders in the need for change.

“If one realistically and objectively views the landscape of this issue, it would be safe to conclude that one or both of the following must occur in some significant form to realize significant increases in the hiring ratio of head women’s basketball coaches of color on the intercollegiate level,” Keith said. “We will need to experience an increase in the social consciousness of the ethnic minority student-athletes in their decisions to choose a college or university based in part on the diversity and inclusion of the institution’s athletic department; and/or the realization of legal implications of Title VII and Title IX in the intercollegiate hiring process.”

It begins with the omission of dismissive statements based on the failures of a select few. Considering the dramatic progress McGuff made the past two seasons, signing two All-Americans and advancing the team to successive 20-win seasons, the program deserves that much – a candidate pool that considers talent from every background.

0 Comments | More in Mailbag, Pac-12, Washington | Topics: Cal, Jazmine Davis, Kevin McGuff

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