Staley of South Carolina defends black coaches
Paradise Island Dawn Staley remembers when she was just beginning her coaching career when she looked across the sideline and rarely saw a black woman leading the opposing team.
This happens quite often today, but Staley says it’s not enough.
“There’s an influx of black women getting a chance,” Staley said. “Black women are getting more opportunities to become the honorary chairs of their programmes. I hope we can continue to succeed.”
A pair of black women will face off again on Saturday when top-ranked Gamecocks play Staley in their first-ever women’s Battle 4 Atlantis match in the Bahamas against Buffalo and Felisha Legette-Jack.
It’s just a numbers game when you look at the demographics of who plays the sport compared to who gets the most opportunities to drive it, said Staley, who recently signed a landmark $22.4 million seven-year contract.
“There should be a fair number of black women who get a chance because of who we serve,” Staley said. “We serve a lot of black players. I don’t want people to think I play the race card. I’ve been in the game for a long time, and I’ve seen great jobs go to people who deserve a chance.”
There are 12 black female principals at Power Five schools this season, including two new schools out of the nine slots: Marisa Mosley in Wisconsin and Johnny Harris in Auburn.
Overall, 14 of the 39 openings at the Power Five schools this season have gone to minorities.
“I think more doors should be opened because we feel comfortable. It is undeniable that you have to interview us,” Leggett-Jack said. “When you interview us, you should choose us. The answer is yes. We are more prepared than most people.”
Leggett Jack said black coaches couldn’t have a better champion than Staley.
“I am in awe of her. I am a collegiate. She is wonderful and generous,” said the Bulls coach. “Call her, and she thinks you are the most special person in the world. I’ve done it with everyone.”
Leggett Jack was one of nearly 70 black coaches Staley sent a piece from her South Carolina-winning championship net in 2017. It was a gesture the Buffalo coach didn’t lose.
“I sent it to them and gave them a note,” Leggett-Jack said. “She inspired us with wanting to go even higher. I haven’t seen that in 33 years. No one has come out and had as much of an impact on audiences as Dawn Staley has.”
Staley was debating who she would give a part of the championship network to as well in the same way that Caroline Beck did years ago.
“I’ve wrestled with who I give it to with so many coaches out there, I can’t pick just one,” Staley said. “Let me do something different and give it to all the black women coaches. There are black men who are the beneficiaries. All the Division I Black coaches are in our game.”
Staley hopes these coaches will find a way to raise someone else’s level when they succeed.
“I started with the Division I coaches because they are the ones with a bigger platform. I hope they can get back into their coaching tree and their career, and see what impact people have made in a way that they can share with it,” Staley said. “It doesn’t have to be a tangible network, it could be a phone call or a text message. A letter, symbolizing that you noticed what they were doing. The impact they made in someone’s life.”
While more black coaches are getting that first chance, Staley and others hope to see coaches who may not be successful right away get some time or if they end up failing, a second chance.
“There is a different level of pressure on a woman of color,” said Nikki Vargas, president of the Color Coaches Association. “We don’t get recycled. You don’t get a second chance. You have to think about it.”
Legette-Jack is one of the coaches Fargas didn’t see getting a second chance at Power Five School after he was expelled in Indiana. She’s had success at the Buffalo in the past few years, leading them to Sweet 16 before losing to Staley’s Gamecocks.
“You know in the back of your mind, I might not get another chance,” said Vargas, who spent a decade at LSU as head coach after leaving UCLA. “I better do my best. I add a few more. It’s sad because we carry so many other things with us.”
More AP Women’s College Basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball, https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll, https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll : // twitter.com/AP_Top25
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