|ON THE MARK: Cal State Northridge coasch Bobby Braswell, left and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar are just two of several Black coaches that have their teams dancing in the NCAA|
Black coaches keeping eye on ball
By Kenneth Miller
Sentinel Managing Editor
It has been more than 10 years since Tubby Smith became the third Black coach to lead his team to an NCAA championship while at Kentucky and if experts are right there will not be an African American hoisting the prestigious trophy this year.
However, winning a national title is not a true measuring stick of how successful Black coaches have been in the collegiate ranks and nearly one dozen will least their team into the treasured field of 64 when March Madness begins on Thursday March 19.
Smith is back in the dance again this year with the Minnesota Gophers (22-10), but as perennial long shots in the brutal East Regional where Pittsburgh is the No. 1 seed.
As a No. 10 seed, his outfit will meet Texas (22-11) in the opening round in Philadelphia.
No coach is as long a shot to win the championship as Cal State Northridge's Bobby Braswell who will lead his No. 15 seed Matadors (17-13) against No. 2 seed Memphis (31-3) in the West Regional in Kansas City.
Braswell has led Northridge to the only two NCAA appearances in school history and is considered among the top coaches in the nation, but has opted to remain at Northridge, a school in inept facilities and a penny budget for its athletic program.
He began his week for the big dance in a criminal court room on Monday where he was supporting his son who has been charged with felony burglary.
His painstaking personal matter notwithstanding, the strongly religious Braswell will try to become the fifth team in NCAA history to win a game as a No. 15 seed.
Morgan State (23-11) head coach Todd Bozeman will share the same task when he pits his squad against No. 2 seed Oklahoma (27-5) and its Black coach Jeff Capel in the South regional in Kansas City.
Bozeman is the former head coach at Cal Berkley where he was accused of paying a player and hit with a 10 year coaching ban from the NCAA.
He coached AAU basketball and clinics overseas and did some NBA scouting until he finally got the job to coach at the traditionally Black college in Baltimore.
Just above both Bozeman and Capel in the South bracket is Oliver Purnell's Clemson Tigers (23-8) a No. 7 seed facing No. 10 Michigan in Miami.
No. 13 Cleveland State (25-10) is also represented by a Black coach in Gary Waters, who received a contract extension for the fantastic job that he has done, and it would not shock many if his squad defeated No. 6 seed West Virginia in the Midwest Regional in Miami.
A truly dangerous team that could potentially go deep into the tournament is Missouri (28-6) coach Mike Anderson who opens against Cornell (21-9) in the West Regional in Boise Idaho.
Anderson is among the elite coaches in America and has had success wherever he's been. The former UAB pilot was on the staff with Nolan Richardson when Arkansas won the NCAA title in 1994.
His team plays an up-tempo style and applies full court pressure the entire game, a derivative of Richardson's famous "40 minutes of hell."
Anderson could meet another fellow Black coach in the West if he and Washington (25-8) coach Lorenzo Romar were to advance to the Elite Eight.
Romar led the Huskies to their first Pac 10 championship since 1953 and his team is a valued No. 4 seed, higher than even UCLA.
However, his team will get the acid test right out of the gate when it faces No. 13 seed Mississippi State (23-12) in the first round.
Leonard Hamilton's Florida State Seminoles (25-9) are the only team from the Sunshine s\\State in the tournament and if they want to make an impact as a No. 5 seed, they will have to survive the slow down game of No. 12 Wisconsin in the West Region, an always upsetting proposition when a 5 meets a 12.
A year ago LSU coach Trent Johnson was facing UCLA in the Pac 10 tournament championship game as head coach at Stanford, but when the twin towers of Robin and Brook Lopez decided to leave after their sophomore season for the NBA draft, so did Johnson and he landed in Baton Rouge with the Tigers.
He has not disappointed, leading the Tigers to a SEC conference title and 26-7 record, but all it got him was a No. 8 seed in the East region in the tourney.
For starters Johnson will have the tough task of dissecting Butler (26-5) in perhaps the most competitive match-up in Greensboro, N.C. .
Of course if the Tigers win, waiting in the wings will be No. 1 seed North Carolina in the second round.
On a local front both UCLA and USC fans will be in a nail biting mode when their teams face Black coaches Anthony Grant of VCU and Al Skinner of Boston College.
Grant was on the Florida Gators staff that won the first of their consecutive NCAA titles in 2006 and has since become a star in his own right with the Rams, which will meet UCLA in the East.
Meanwhile, Skinner has already led his team to victory over North Carolina and on the road no less, so meeting USC on a neutral site is not nearly as daunting.