The Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches recently held a virtual forum to discuss how to achieve great diversity in college basketball coaching positions. This included identifying the barriers that coaches of color face and how administrators can develop policies and procedures that support diversity. The forum was moderated by Tracy Ellis-Ward, senior associate commissioner of the Big East Conference.
“It’s all about intentionality,” said Tamica Smith Jones, director of intercollegiate athletics at University of California, Riverside. “The one thing that I would suggest is that we get out of our good old boy system and really be intentional about the efforts that we say we want to create.”
Felisha Legette-Jack, head women’s basketball coach at University at Buffalo, said coaches also must be intentional and not wait to get noticed. She suggested identifying five athletic directors that a coach wants to work for and making the connection.
“I was blessed to work under Marianna Freeman at Syracuse and Joanne P. McCallie at Michigan State, so I had tremendous mentors who mandated that [assistant coaches] did everything,” said Legette-Jack. “I needed to know how to do a budget. I needed to coach posts; I needed to coach guards. Whether you wanted to become a head coach or not, you were already prepared to be a head coach because of the way you were mentored.
“That’s what we do at University at Buffalo,” she continued. “It’s important as a head coach that you don’t sit on your throne and just delegate out.”
Smith Jones started a program at UC Riverside for individuals desirous of learning more about coaching. This included donor development and budgets.
“I’ve hired a lot of coaches in my career,” she said. “I’ve never gone into it looking for any particular ethnicity or identity in a candidate. I’m always looking for the most qualified, the one I believe can be successful. My responsibility as the athletic director is to support coaches. I will not put a coach in a position that I think they would not be successful in. Their success, my success and the program’s success are all tied together.
“The bottom line for me is who can get the job done,” she continued. “It really becomes the relationships that you’ve had over the years. That’s why it’s so important that [coaches] get to know and initiate those conversations with athletic directors, but also that athletic directors really do their work in understanding what they need for their programs.”