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There will only be 15 African American head coaches on theside lines when the 64 team field NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins onMarch 15 to decide which school will wear the coveted National crown.
The last Black to coach his team to an NCAA championship wasKentucky’s Tubby Smith in 1998 and before those only two other Blacks have ledtheir team to the championship, Georgetown’s John Thompson II was the first andArkansas’ Nolan Richardson.
That’s a very disturbing number when you consider themajority of the players in the NCAA tournament are African Americans.
Ironically, the college with the best chance to return aBlack coach to the pinnacle of the NCAA is Georgetown, which is led by the sonof the first Black to win the crown, when John Thompson III leads the Hoyas asthe No. 2 seed in the East Regional.
Thompson III led the Hoyas into the tournament last yearwhere they lost in the regional semifinals to eventual champion Florida.
Led by junior Jeff Green who scored a career high 30 pointsin the Big East conference championship game, Georgetown finished the regularseason with a 26-6 record and owns the No. 5 scoring defense in the country.The team plays nearly identical to the way Georgetown of old played.
Four other Black coaches are anchored in the East, includingGeorge Washington’s Karl Hobbs, Arkansas’ Stan Heath, New Mexico State’s ReggieTheus and Al Skinner of Boston College.
Skinner’s eagles are the No. 7 seed and have tumbled downthe stretch to fall to 20-11, but hailing from the tough ACC could be anadvantage it they can just put it altogether now. Led by ACC Player of the YearJared Dudley this team could get on a roll, but must first beat Texas tech andBobby Knight.
Hobbs is an emerging star among the coaching ranks, havingboth played and served as an assistant at might Connecticut, he has led theColonials of Washington D.C. to two NCAA tournament bids and this year’s teamfinished with a 23-8 record and won the Atlantic 10 Conference. GeorgeWashington is a No. 11 seed in the East.
Heath replaced Richardson at Arkansas in and has found outhow tough it is to fill those shoes. The Razorbacks have only reach the NCAAtournament twice under Heath and was a bubble team before advancing to the SECConference tournament championship.
The No. 12 seed Razorbacks will open against USC and couldspring the upset of the first week.
New Mexico State is led by former Inglewood High standout ReggieTheus, and the No. 13 seed Aggies earned a bid when they won the WesternAthletic Conference tournament on their home floor. Theus has turned around aprogram that just two years ago was 6-24 and this team could be dangerous.
The South Regional has three Black coaches led by ACC Coachof the Year David Leito of Virginia asa No. 4 seed, Trent Johnson of Stanford which will have its work cut out forthem as a No. 11 seed and coach Johnny Jones North Texas squad is a No. 15 seedand will open against No.2 seed Memphis. The Stanford Cardinal which owns a win over UCLA this season will openagainst No. 6 seed Louisville in Lexington on March 15.
Ernie Kent of No. 3 seed Oregon in the Midwest Regional isthe Black coach with the best chance of surviving there. Kent led the Ducks tothe Pac-10 Conference tournament championship where it smashed USC at theStaples Center. His Ducks finished with a 26-7 record including victories overGeorgetown, UCLA and Washington State, all high seeds in the tournament.
Another Black coach in the Midwest is Georgia tech’s PaulHewitt who earned an at-large bid from the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.Hewitt’s Yellow Jackets beat tournament teams Memphis, Duke, North Carolina andBoston College. His team will open on Friday March 16 against UNLV.
Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois is the top seed amongBlack coaches in the West regional which features No. 2 seed UCLA.
Lowery led the Salukis to their second NCAA bid with a 27-6record and although his team lost in the first round of the Missouri ValleyConference the committee awarded a team with wings over Virginia Tech andButler. However this team could meet Kentucky if both advance to the Sweet 16because Tubby Smith’s Wildcats are lurking in the West Region as a No. 8 seed.Although this is not one of Smith’s best team’s he seems to do his best workwith under achieving squads.
Kelvin Sampson’s Indiana Hoosiers are a No. 7 seed and couldmeet UCLA in the second round if they get past Gonzaga.
Another tough out in the West will be Virginia Commonwealth,which won 27 games against just 6 defeats and will open the tournament againstNo. 3 Pittsburgh. Black coach Anthony Grant, another of the rising stars in theprofession leads Va. Commonwealth.
Last, but certainly not least is Tevester Anderson ofJackson State who has the toughest task of them all when his Historically BlackUniversity takes on the No. 1 Seed and defending national champion FloridaGators in the Midwest on Friday.