OPINION: Coaching tree needs to branch out
The Andy Griffith Show aired for eight years in the 1960s. Five decades later, reruns of the sitcom remain a staple of American households in the South.
Perhaps its lasting legacy — and most prevalent pop culture reference — is the subculture it created. When people speak of Mayberry, indelible images immediately leap to life.
Since the 1960s, athletics in the Tarheel state have maintained a Mayberry model of success. Behind the power of a dynamic duo, an entire conference has built a star-studded cast of characters that have branched out and continued the success at stations away from Tobacco Road.
Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith have established dynasties as their lasting legacies at Duke and the University of North Carolina, respectively. Their coaching trees span beyond the reaches of Tobacco Road as far as Palo Alto, Calif., where one of Krzyzewski's former players and top assistant, Johnny Dawkins, is now the head coach of men's basketball at Stanford.
Roy Williams coached at Kansas before making the trek back to Chapel Hill, where he now holds down the spot on the bench his mentor once occupied. Meanwhile, other jobs in the South have been dramatically impacted by the contributions of these two men. The fallen dominoes from basketball's equivalent of Andy Griffith and Don Knotts leave one to wonder what the face of college basketball would look like without the duo.
There is one aspect of the Mayberry model, however, that leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference playing catch-up with the rest of the nation. Stanford poached Dawkins away from Durham, and Missouri — now a member of the Southeastern Conference — hired Frank Haith away from Miami. The ACC is producing worthy candidates for other conferences, but is suddenly looking a lot more like Mount Airy in the 1960s.
The conference employs only two minority head basketball coaches, one a recent hire. Several others (most notably, Paul Hewitt at Georgia Tech) have been fired. Far be it for anyone to say this is by design, some sort of dark conspiracy to keep power in the hands of men who have long held a majority of jobs in their profession.
But racial integration has always been the result of an intentional process which yields results slowly over a number of years. A simple question remains. For a region of the country — and a corner of the world — that has traditionally earned an unflattering reputation for being insensitive to issues of race and cultural diversity, is the southeast doing everything it can to make progress?
A quick comparison reveals a stark contrast between coaches and players. According to the 2010 race and gender report card released by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, 61 percent of Division I basketball players are black. Only 21 percent of D-I basketball coaches are African-American.
The last statistic is downward trending and concerns are slowly mounting for the nation, but the ACC is still below even the national average in diversity among coaches. Elsewhere in the southeast, the other BCS conference beneath the Mason-Dixon Line continues to change public perception.
Wade Houston became the SEC's first black head coach of a revenue sport in 1989 when he was hired as the men's basketball coach at Tennessee. Since that time, the conference has welcomed several others and has now reached an unprecedented point in its history when seven of the 14 head basketball coaches are African-American. Yet another new addition, South Carolina coach Frank Martin, is of Hispanic descent.
Krzyzewski made room on his bench for Dawkins and would presumably do so again for former players Grant Hill and Shane Battier. He also publicly touted Frank Haith as one of the best young coaches in college basketball before he departed the conference. Nonetheless, more remains to be done to reach beyond the boundaries of the current establishment to bring in coaching talent.
Call it the inverted Mayberry model.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.