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Saga of HBCU basketball coaching job that’s already spoken for
On sidelines, no such thing as a sure thing
 
Published Tuesday, June 15, 2021 8:20 pm
by Bonitta Best

PHOTO | UNSPLASH
Even if a head coaching job is supposed to be a slam-dunk for a potential candidate, nothing is exactly as it seems.

A certain championship winning basketball coach – let’s call him John – was going about his usual business.


One day out of the blue, he gets a call from an athletic director at a Division I program, asking if he’d be interested in their men’s basketball opening.


John knew about the vacancy but really had no interest. This program hasn’t finished above .500 since the 2011-12 season and doesn’t look to be getting any better. B-U-T, when an AD calls you, instead of the other way around, you got to listen, right?


Of course, the first question John asks is, “what type of financial package are we talking about?” The answer surprised and intrigued him. It was worth a consideration of uprooting his family from the south to the north. Then the AD asked him to fill out an application.


John balked at that.


“I don’t apply for jobs,” he replied. “Besides, you called me.”


The AD explained that since they were a state institution, it was required and just a formality. The job was his if he wanted it. Still intrigued by the package deal and a chance to coach on the DI level, John agrees.


As with any coaching vacancy, a slew of candidates apply. And when it’s an HBCU job, familiar names always pop up.


One, I’ll call James, has either been head coach or an assistant coach at about 20 HBCUs. Every place he’s gone, he’s either left under “can’t talk about it” circumstances or just plain run out of town for sticking his nose in everybody’s business.


James is out of coaching, but itching to get back in. When he heard John was the frontrunner (there are no secrets among coaches), he was on the phone pitching his skills for an assistant’s spot. Sucking up is what I call it.


Everybody knows that if James becomes an assistant on staff, he’s going to backstab that coach to get his job.


Another applicant I’ll call Judas, because he’s ready to betray his employer after a year. Judas was fired from his previous DI coaching job, was hired by a lower-division school as head coach but has yet to coach a game due to the pandemic.


However, he still received a full paycheck and should be grateful. Instead, all he talks about is getting back to Division I – a place he couldn’t win when he was there.
I want to tell on him so bad, but I made a promise.


Meanwhile, John is moving up the chart. He is now one of three finalists for the job and is set to meet the university president. The AD has practically assured him the gig is his. Word is getting around. Colleagues are calling to congratulate him on the move. James is still pushing for a spot on his staff.


Then, suddenly, the climate changes. John starts hearing that another name on the list is the frontrunner. This candidate has none of the experience or championships John has, but he and the prez are “friends.”


The congratulations stop coming, and the AD stutters every time she talks to him (definitely a bad sign). Even James has stopped his brown-nosing. What was once a done deal is no deal at all.


John is more annoyed than angry. After all, he still has a job at a place that he enjoys working at, and they came after him, not vice versa. No harm, no foul.


A couple of weeks later, the announcement is made official on the other guy. John gets a call from James. He’s been in contact with the new guy in hopes of getting on staff.


Never a dull moment in HBCU sports.


Bonitta Best is sports editor at The Triangle Tribune in Durham.

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