Even two months after murder of George Floyd brought conversations about social injustices and racial inequality to the forefront of the national dialogue, the college basketball community continues to come together to discuss issues that people in the profession face both inside and outside the game of basketball. After the first rendition of the event brought together more than 200 coaches for a night of conversation and growth, this month’s panel had an extra emphasis on those who work at the grassroots levels of basketball. Leaders in JUCO and prep basketball as well as representatives from the scouting community spoke for close to four hours about the ways they can continue to educate themselves, each other, and their programs about these important topics. The conversation was moderated by Brian Burton and Adam Gordon.
One cause at the center of the dialogue was voting and ensuring that players are registered and empowered to vote. This has become a national conversation at the Division 1 level thanks to the likes of Georgia Tech’s Eric Reveno, who first proposed the idea of having no mandatory athletic activities on Election Day, but it’s something that has become a priority at programs of all levels.
“We need to educate [our players] to vote,” Dallas Showtyme director Erven Davis said. Davis emphasized that voting isn’t just about the President or even the Senate, but local seats that have a significant impact on how the neighborhoods we live in operate, particularly funding and resources in less affluent neighborhoods.
Other coaches talked about the importance of supporting players in helping them find jobs once their playing careers end -- something that helps Black players break generational wealth divides.
“A lot of my guys are not going to play overseas or in the NBA… I try to steer them into other avenues and opportunities,” Hinds CC head coach Yusef Fitzgerald said. “I have one kid who played for me two years ago who now is a truck driver… we try to give them those opportunities outside of basketball here.”
Another way to support the Black community through the game is through coaching job opportunities, but the racial disparities in the business have often made it challenging for young Black coaches to break in. Ted Crass from Otero JC brought up the idea of teaching current players the operations side of the business so they’d be more prepared for entry-level coaching positions.
“What’s wrong with having a junior point guard help with a bus trip or help with some meals?” Crass said. He went on to note that one racial divide in the coaching industry is created by many entry-level operations jobs (often filled by former managers) are paid roles, while entry-level assistant or player development jobs (often filled by former players) are unpaid. Providing players with operational experience puts them on a path into coaching and eventually towards their first head coaching job.
Nick Wade of Angelina College spoke about his journey as a Black coach working for free trying to get a crack at a job.
“I was told by a coach ‘even though I’m paying you nothing, you need to work like I’m paying you a million dollars’ and I took that to heart,” Wade said. “I wanted it to be so hard to be like ‘damn we got to give this guy a job because we're going to look ridiculous to everybody else that we didn't give him one’.”
Overall, the night allowed necessary conversations about ways both Black and white coaches can impact their players, campuses, and communities. The conversation will continue on this platform moving forward as we find the best ways to directly impact change.