Cuonzo Martin

While Missouri’s basketball season ended with a losing record and no tournament play, the school can boast that it has a rarity among the Power 5 athletic conferences.

Within the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC, there are just seven black men’s basketball coaches. In all, the conferences have 65 teams. While the overwhelming majority of basketball players in the Power 5 are black, a meager 9.3 percent of its coaches are African American.

Arkansas fired Mike Anderson and Alabama bought out Avery Johnson’s contract following the season. That left Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin as the SEC’s lone black coach until Vanderbilt hired Jerry Stackhouse.

Shaka Smart of Texas and Oklahoma State’s Mike Boynton Jr., are the Big 12’s black representation. It’s fortuitous that Smart’s Longhorns won the NIT Tournament. The odds were that he would be dismissed after Texas lost in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament and snubbed on NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday.

Before you start celebrating the ACC for having three black men’s basketball head coaches, remember the conference has 15 teams, including Notre Dame.

Leonard Hamilton at Florida State is the dean of all black coaches. Kevin Keatts is at the helm of an improving North Carolina State team and Jeff Capel is in charge of the floundering Pittsburgh program.

That’s it, folks.

Former New York Times sports columnist William C. Rhoden, who now writes for ESPN’s The Undefeated website, asks in a recent article, “How does this happen?”

“African Americans have dominated play at the highest collegiate levels of basketball for three decades. You would think this would have created a rich talent pool that produced Power 5 head coaches.”

“There’s a gap,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari told Rhoden.

“We don’t have enough guys who are willing to stand up and say stuff that needs to be said.”

Calipari said a mandate that team’s have fewer assistant coaches is also a problem.

“The reason why we’re in this position we’re in, they’ve eliminated all the entry positions,” Calipari said.

“They said we had too many suits on the bench.”

Listen, I have no use for NCAA President Mark Emmert. I think the guy is closer to a plantation overseer than he is to a man that legitimate cares about the futures of black athletes and coaches.

He did say recently that more successful white coaches have to back up-and-coming black coaches for high-profile jobs.

I think those folks can have a huge impact,” Emmert said.

“If you’ve got candidates out there, men of color, let’s say, going after men’s basketball positions and a coach of the stature like (Michigan State coach Tom Izzo) or (Calipari) or any of those guys are willing to give them a seal of approval, saying, ‘You know, you hire this guy, I promise you, you’re going to have a good coach. You will have no regrets,’ that screws up somebody’s courage a lot. They have a lot of stroke in this process if they chose to exercise it.”

Katrice Albert, the NCAA’s executive vice president for inclusion and human resources, agrees with her boss.

“I call those folks way-makers,” she told Rhoden.

“They provide paths and opportunities for young up-and-coming coaches, particularly those who are people of color. And to have a way-maker open doors into rooms where these folks rightfully belong, that says a lot.”

Unless UCLA hires a black coach or LSU interim coach Tony Benford is retained, it looks like there will be just seven Power 5 black coaches when the 2019-20 season tips off,

The word is that Benford will become a member of Buzz Williams’ staff at Texas A & M.

If you think things are better for black women’s coaches in the Power 5, think again. It’s an unlucky seven, again.

The SEC has four black women as head basketball coaches. The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 have one, respectively and the Big 12 has none.

Tommy’s terrific

When the St. Louis Cardinals dealt Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay last July, the general consensus was that his mouth had as much to do with it as his subpar season. Never afraid to speak the truth about his organization and some teammates, Pham violated a Cardinal rule and was made a scapegoat for a season that, at that time, was going nowhere.

Pham’s arrival helped the Rays, picked to finish last by many pundits in the AL East, win an astounding 90 games last season. That was good for third behind the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, which both won more than 100 games. The 90 wins were also more than the Cardinals registered.

Pham had a paltry .730 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) with the Cardinals, then posted a 1.071 OPS in 39 games with the Rays. He picked up where he left off and so have the Rays – the team that is currently leading the AL East with an 8-3 record and is off to its best start since 2010.

In Monday’s 5-1 win at the Chicago White Sox, Pham reached base twice to extend his Rays’ record on-base streak to 43 games. It was the 50th game he played for the Rays and had reached base in 48 of them.

He is hitting .275 with three RBIs and no home runs. His strikeout total of 10 is a bit too high. But he’s walked eight times, scored six runs and was tied for the AL lead with five stolen bases.

Pham also did not lose his voice when he arrived in Tampa. He blasted the fan base for not attending games, something he grew used to in St. Louis.

He didn’t back down when the season began, telling the Tampa Times, “When you’re a team of our caliber, it would be nice — because I do envision us winning — to have more fan support at our games.”

Along came Jones

Arizona Diamondbacks centerfielder Adam Jones remained unsigned until shortly before Spring Training ended. After 10 games, he was hitting a robust .364 with four home runs and six RBIs. He also had scored six runs. Underpaid and underappreciated, Jones remains one of the best black players in MLB. He signed for one year with a base salary of $3 million, and could make up to $2 million more in incentives.

The 33-year-old Jones is also not afraid to confront rowdy, racist fans.

Last week, Jones alerted security in San Diego’s Petco Park that a fan was hurling profanity at him and that he had enough. The fan was ejected from the game.

“These fans in sports, man, they’re starting to get a little more brazen,” Jones said. “I’ve said it many times, and obviously I’ve had altercations with fans. My biggest thing is, keep the banter polite. Keep it light, keep it smart, Jones said after the incident.

“On the street, they’d never do that. The second I hear somebody cussing us out, you’re gone. I could care less that they’re gone. That’s just how it is. I made a nice play, and just hearing the B-word, F-word, that’s not baseball talk.”

Jones said that he did not hear the N-word or any racial insults like he did two years ago in Boston’s Fenway Park when he was subjected to racist taunts and had a bag of peanuts thrown at him.

The Reid Roundup

Jackie Robinson would have turned 100 this year and he is, supposedly, being honored throughout Major League Baseball all season. Maybe MLB is waiting until April 15, the 62nd anniversary of Robinson being the first black player to be allowed to play in the Majors, because I have not heard or seen much since the season began … While all players will honor Robinson by wearing “42”, the Cardinals will be in Milwaukee on April 15 … I look forward to USA TODAY’s annual compilation of the number of black players on Opening Day rosters, which is released around Jackie Robinson Day … The prospective owners of a expansion MLS team in St. Louis will release drawings of a new stadium soon – hopefully the announcement will include minority construction and employment goals … Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, a rare black MLB shortstop, would have probably been traded if his team acquired Manny Machado in free agency. Machado signed with the Padres and, so far, the White Sox have gotten the better of the two players. Anderson, my oldest daughter Bryson’s favorite player, was leading the American League with a .517 batting average on Tuesday with two home runs and five RBIs…

Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest and is a New York Times contributor. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and appears monthly on “The Dave Glover Show” on 97.1 Talk.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.

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