YOU WILL FIND no argument with Eric Hyman attempting to find the best-qualified person to be the next mens basketball coach at South Carolina. That said, Hyman also should exhaust all avenues to find a black coach to replace the departed Darrin Horn.
Perhaps never in college basketball history has the opportunity been better and the number of qualified candidates greater for athletics departments to hire black mens basketball coaches.
As Hyman looks over the landscape of candidates, he cannot help but notice the large pool of black coaching talent that exists, from Shaka Smart at Virginia Commonwealth to Tommy Amaker at Harvard to John Cooper at Tennessee State.
No longer should we think that just certain communities and certain people who look a certain way have all the skills, said Lonnie Randolph, state president of the South Carolina NAACP. Nobody has a patent on competence, integrity, professionalism and the ability to coach. Nobody owns that anymore.
USC is a little slow getting to this party. It remains one of four SEC programs Florida, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt are the others that have not employed a black mens basketball coach. The same numbers exist in the ACC where Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest have never had a black coach.
The SEC and ACC have been ahead of the curve in the hiring of black coaches for a sport where 60.9 percent of its participants were black for the 2010-11 season, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.
While the number of black mens basketball players continues to rise, according to the same study, the number of black coaches has declined from 25.2 percent of NCAA Division I coaches in 2005-06 to 21 percent in 2010-11.
Whatever that percentage, it is a sad testimony to the lack of significant progress in minority hirings since Will Robinson broke the barrier as the first mens basketball head coach at the Division I level in 1970 at Illinois State. It took a little more than a decade for John Thompson to prove black coaches belong when he guided Georgetown to the national title in 1984.
A quick glance around the power six conferences shows blacks are among the most respected and successful coaches in the ranks. Leonard Hamilton at Florida State, Frank Haith at Missouri and Johnny Dawkins at Stanford immediately come to mind. The same can be said for the five black SEC coaches: Anthony Grant at Alabama, Mike Anderson at Arkansas, Tony Barbee at Auburn, Trent Johnson at LSU and Cuonzo Martin at Tennessee.
Each of those programs has found that having a black head coach provides a natural connection with the athletes they mentor. Make no mistake about it, unless an athlete chooses to play for a program with a rich tradition, such as Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina, he is likely to select a college because of the head coach.
That simple fact of college basketball life harkens to recruiting, where a significant advantage is gained by a coach who can relate to products of single-parent families. It behooves the coach to make the same connection with the athletes parent or parents.
Hiring a black coach alone will not solve the many ills that have plagued the USC mens basketball program for decades. But a black coach might provide a giant step toward helping the program attract a higher-caliber of player from across the nation.
Of course, getting a black coach to USC is quite another matter. Unless there is a connection to USC Ohio State assistant Dave Dickerson is an Olar native and Tennessee States Cooper was an assistant on Eddie Foglers staff from 1995 to 2001 the state offers little in the form of promise for a black coach.
It is increasingly difficult for coaches in any sport to recruit minorities from within the state because of South Carolinas poor public education system. Then there is the issue of a black coach working in a state where the Confederate flag a symbol of the states racist past continues to fly on the State House grounds.
So, Hyman finds himself in a pickle when it comes to wooing a black coach. He can wave all kinds of money at a candidate and use the lure of coaching in the SEC as a carrot. But he cannot wash away a history that has not been kind to minorities in the state.
Even so, Hyman often has said decisions from his office often come down to doing the right thing. In the end, it is the right thing to make every possible effort to hire a black coach to head the USC mens basketball program.
Black coaching candidate odds
|Coach||Current Position||The Skinny||Odds|
|Jeff Capel||Duke assistant||Top choice of USC four years ago might be back in picture again||50 to 1|
|John Cooper||Tennessee State head coach||Former USC assistant (1995-2001) has intelligence as Rhodes Scholar candidate that Eric Hyman seeks||50 to 1|
|Dave Dickerson||Ohio State assistant||Olar native did the impossible with two winning seasons as head coach at Tulane||150 to 1|
|Tommy Amaker||Harvard head coach||Amaker could be wooed, but it is not likely that his wife, a clinical psychologist in Boston, would want to move||200 to 1|
|Tubby Smith||Minnesota head coach||Former USC assistant (1986-89) probably on downside of career at age 60||250 to 1|
|Anthony Solomon||Notre Dame assistant||Former Clemson assistant failed in attempt to revive scandal-plagued St. Bonaventure program||300 to 1|
|Shaka Smart||VCU head coach||Hottest coach on the market, likely to get better offers than USC||500 to 1|
|Dawn Staley||USC womens head coach||A bold move that no program is willing to make||1 million to 1|
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