Of the 68 participants in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which includes the “First Four” participants who played Tuesday and Wednesday, 15 have African-American/minority head coaches at their helm.
That comes to about 22 percent of the coaches. This would seem like an outstanding number, except for the fact that the number of black players in the tournament (especially those who start or play major minutes) will probably be three times as high.
Also, if you take out the head coaches of mid-major or HBCU schools, the number drops significantly. Just five are from Power 5 Conferences, which includes the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 13 and SEC.
The black/minority coaches in the 2018 NCAA Tournament are:
Mike Anderson, Arkansas – The former Missouri coach was a stalwart in the SEC this season, guiding his Razorbacks to a 23-11 record and a No. 7 seed. He was on the hot seat when the season started.
Ed Cooley, Providence – Coached his Friars (21-13) to the Big East Tournament championship game where they gave Villanova a fit before bowing by 10 points. Cooley ripped his pants during first half and coached with a towel draped around him until halftime.
Mike Davis, Texas Southern – The former Indiana coach seems finds a way into the tournament again. They were favored to win their “First Four” game on Wednesday and take on West Region top seed Xavier in Nashville on Friday.
Nathan Davis, Bucknell – Davis was an assistant coach for 14-seed Bucknell when it scored a major upset over No. 3 seed Kansas in 2005. While Michigan State, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, is heavily favored, could history repeat itself?
Travis DeCuire, Montana - This is the black coach most basketball fans have never heard of. He was named the Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year by the league’s coaches and could give the No. 3 seed Michigan Wolverines a battle in a West Region game in Wichita.
Earl Grant, Charleston – He’s just the second Charleston head coach to make the NCAA Tournament. Pundits looking at early-round major upsets are giving Grant’s team (26-7) a real chance to take down Auburn. That includes yours truly.
Ron Hunter, Georgia State – Hunter’s Panthers (24-10) won the Sun Belt Conference on Sunday afternoon in dominant fashion over Texas-Arlington and immediately learned they would play No. 2 seed Cincinnati, which beat Houston in the AAC Tournament on Sunday.
Avery Johnson, Alabama – When the Crimson Tide hired Johnson, a former NBA player and head coach with the New York Knicks, the university had no idea he would get things turned around so quickly. Johnson’s crew was 19-15 overall but earned a No. 9 seed in the tournament.
LaVall Jordan, Butler - When Brad Stevens left for the Boston Celtics, most fans thought that was the end of Butler basketball relevance. Jordan has guided the Bulldogs back to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed. It will be a battle of black coaches as he takes on Anderson and Arkansas on Friday.
Kevin Keatts, North Carolina State – The ACC is a tough league – some say the toughest – yet Keatts’ Wolfpack more than stood up to the challenge. Look for Keatts to advance to a showdown with Kansas after beating No. 8 seed Seton Hall on Thursday.
Cuonzo Martin, Missouri – Martin got ripped off in the SEC Coach of the Year balloting. He was more deserving than Tennessee’s Rick Barnes. Michael Porter Jr. missed the regular season, yet the Tigers went 20-12. Mizzou will win its 8 vs. 9 game against Florida State AND YES will topple top-seed Xavier to reach the Sweet 16.
Le Velle Moton, North Carolina Central – Respected ESPN pundit and former Indiana coach Dan Dakish said it is just a matter of time before Moton gets a big-time coaching opportunity. Moton, who led his team to the MEAC tournament title over Hampton, is headed to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year.
Kelvin Sampson, Houston - This guy has bounced around and in-and-out of trouble. But his Cougars are solid, a No. 6 seed and could reach the Sweet 16 with wins over San Diego State and Michigan. Hopefully, he can avoid any more scandal in Houston.
Shaka Smart, Texas – The Longhorns battled offseason transfers, injuries, suspensions, a player’s bout with cancer and a short bench and still put together a 19-14 season in the nation’s deepest conference, the Big 12. Texas is seeded 10th in the South Region and will upset Nevada to reach the Round of 32.
Dedrique Taylor, Cal State-Fullerton – While most of the nation was asleep on Saturday night, the Titans drilled favored UC-Irvine to win the Big West Conference and win the right to take on East Region No. 2 seed Purdue in Detroit on Friday.
You can say what you want about the SEC fan base and their commitment to diversity in their respective communities and work places. But it must be recognized that the SEC put three black coaches into the NCAA Tournament this year, the most of any conference.
Tigers claw into tournament
The Missouri Tigers (20-12, 10-8 SEC) certainly earned the right to be the eight-seed in the West Region. They are headed to the Sweet 16, in part because the NCAA Tournament Committee, did them a favor. More on that in just a bit.
The Tigers are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 and the school has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2010.
Martin convinced Michael Porter Jr., to transfer from Washington after the Huskies fired former SLU head coach Lorenzo Romar, which got the ball rolling in the right direction.
While Porter Jr. missed the regular season after a back injury, his transfer led to the Tigers getting Porter’s brother, Jontay, and Jeremiah Tilmon to sign with the Tigers.
Martin led the team to a 12-win improvement from a season ago. Missouri won only 27 games total from 2014-2017.
Porter Jr. shot a miserable 5-of-17 in a first round loss to Georgia in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis, but the Tigers were still destined for the NCAA Tournament. All was good in Tiger Town - until the early hours of Saturday.
Jordan Barnett, the team’s second-leading scorer, was arrested and charged with DWI in Columbia. He is suspended for at least a week, according to Missouri athletic policy. He will miss the game against Florida State.
Had Mizzou been schedule to play on Thursday, he could have missed the next game, which will most likely be against Xavier.
It would have been a bad look for Martin to play Barnett on Saturday afternoon or evening and say that the arrest happened one week plus a few hours before that game. Thus, the Tigers caught a break from the NCAA.
And the winner is…
Before we get there, let’s see how I got there.
Biggest upset – Charleston Over Auburn in Midwest Region.
As for my Jayhawks? – A win over Penn, a loss to North Carolina State.
Which means? – Mizzou goes farther in tournament than KU. Mizzou reaches Sweet 16.
Biggest Surprise – Butler Bulldogs will reach the Elite Eight.
Another Surprise – Michigan Wolverines in Final Four
Other Finalists – Virginia, Villanova and (yuck!) Duke
National Semifinals – Michigan makes title game by beating Virginia; Villanova beats Duke
National Championship – Villanova beats Michigan in overtime
Alvin A. Reid was honored as the 2017 “Best Sports Columnist – Weeklies” in the Missouri Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. He is a panelist on the Nine Network program, Donnybrook, is a weekly contributor to “The Charlie Tuna Show” on KFNS and can also be heard on Frank Cusumano’s “The Press Box.” His Twitter handle is @aareid1.