Lack of Diversity in UMass Basketball

By Elisheva Azarael

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

There seems to have been confusion over who was getting phone calls for the position of University of Massachusetts Amherst head basketball coach after Derek Kellogg’s termination. The Athletic Director, Ryan Bamford, claims that it was just “a timing thing,” as they were scattering around to figure out who they were going to hire as a replacement.

In the supposed rush, Pat Kelsey, the current coach for the Winthrop Eagles, was hired, then backed out of the job 35 minutes before his introductory press conference. During this haphazard process, Boston Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry was called in for two interviews. But instead, Matt McCall was hired as the new head coach.

I was a little quick to judge in the beginning, but I guess it gives us hope for the future, considering the program’s recent dry spell. His success rate is surprising for such a young coach.

In his first season with Chattanooga, McCall racked up 29 wins, the most a first-year coach attained that year nationally. He was coined the Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 2016 and even took a pay cut to coach for UMass.

But I still think that the hiring of McCall over Shrewsberry is a little too suspicious to ignore. McCall may have a great record, but Shrewsberry has more experience. He played college basketball for four years at Hanover College, has served as the assistant coach for Purdue University, Butler University, Wabash College and DePauw University. He had a stint in basketball operations at both Butler and Marshall. He was also head coach for two seasons at Indiana University South Bend.

Before coming to UMass, Matt McCall was Chattanooga’s head coach for two seasons and had been an assistant coach at Florida Atlantic and University of Florida. Before that, he had only served as a manager and a director of basketball operations, both at University of Florida.  Additionally, he never played basketball at the college level. His experience altogether adds up to 15 years. Shrewsberry’s adds up to 22. And four of them are with the National Basketball Association.

You do the math.  Does it sound outrageous?  It should. It’s alarming for multiple reasons. The most important reasons are success—and diversity. Shrewsberry happens to be one of an increasingly small percentage of Black coaches in the business.

Shrewsberry was interviewed for the position twice last month. It’s possible he could have been asking for a lot of money, but Kellogg was Massachusetts’ highest paid state employee, earning approximately $1 million a year. That sum was promised to increase had he performed well.

Officials might not have wanted to chance paying big money before seeing quality work. But the NBA is to ball players what Broadway is to stage actors. Shrewsberry’s professional coaching experience makes him more than qualified to coach for college ball. Not hiring him was itself a gamble with our team’s future success. I’d rather pay top dollar for a shot at professional-quality performance on and off the court than throw chump change at the greater possibility for getting less than stellar.

According to the most recent College Sport Racial and Gender Report Card, only 22.3 percent of all Division I basketball coaches were Black in 2015. That same report says that in the 2005-2006 season, 25.2 were Black, meaning diversity has only decreased in the last decade.

Other organizations are calling for an NCAA version of the National Football League’s Rooney Rule, which requires all professional football teams to interview at least one minority when searching for new head coaches. Though not quite perfect, because of the rule, the number of Black head coaches in the league nearly tripled from 2003 to 2011.

According to The Washington Post, the lack of diversity in college football head coaching is due to a lack of diversity in high offices. There has never been a minority NCAA president, nor has there ever been a minority commissioner for any of the Power Five conferences.

The firms universities pay for coach-searching are mostly white, and influential news reporting is made up of mostly white people. The Post’s article says that “studies on hiring practices and unconscious biases…  suggest we tend to favor those who are similar to us.”

This means that there’s an underlying, trickle-down buddy system going on within college sports that UMass may be participating in, whether the school’s administration is aware of it or not.

Elisheva Azarael is a Collegian columnist and be reached at [email protected]