The soundbite about reasons why HBCU coaches aren’t getting considered for big-time jobs is old, but the false narrative around it isn’t going anywhere.
Earlier this week, North Carolina Central head coach Levelle Moton posted a clip from a conversation regarding college basketball, and the discussion turned to why HBCUs didn’t often get offers from other schools. Several things were thrown out, including the assertion that HBCU coaches don’t hustle enough to get their names out in front of the decision makers at big schools.
Of course, all of those assertions were cop outs. The reason is simply bias against HBCUs and the leagues they compete against. Here are a few examples of coaches who have built consistent winners and shown they know how to with despite the odds being against them.
Norfolk State has a great basketball history, but before Robert Jones arrived, pretty much all of it was at the Division II level. He arrived with Anthony Evans in the mid-2000s and slowly began to assemble the team that would break through with one of the best March Madness moments to date. That 2012 Norfolk State victory over no. 2 Missouri doesn’t happen without Jones bringing in an overlooked big-name Kyle O’Quinn. That win eventually led to Evans getting a gig at Florida International and Jones taking over as head coach. Since he took the reins of the program he’s guided it to three MEAC regular season crowns, two MEAC Tournament titles and two NCAA Tournament victories.
He also has over 13k Twitter followers and regularly engages with his audience on social media. He’s been in the running for several jobs, most recently at St. John’s. If he had done it in any other league, he no doubt would have had a higher-tier mid-major job at this point.
LeVelle Moton also inherited a basketball program that had never had any success at the Division I level when he took over the program in 2009. By the time NCCU could compete for MEAC titles, it was a contender, and won it all in 2014. NCCU would follow up that title with three consecutive from 2017 through 2019, and looked to be on the same trajectory before COVID-19 halted that season’s tournament.
As far as lack of hustle and self promotion — LeVelle Moton lacks for neither. He’s got over 45k Twitter followers and was featured in ESPN’s “Why Not Us” which gave an inside look at an HBCU program attempting to navigate having to swim with the sharks as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s a winner and a known commodity, who has been in the discussion at many mid-major/G5 jobs and even got some buzz from Stephen A. Smith as a candidate to replace Roy Williams.
Howard University head coach Kenneth Blakeney doesn’t have as many titles as Moton and Jones, but his program is definitely on the upswing on and off the court. The team won 22 games, knocked off a tough Norfolk State team, and gave Kansas some headaches in the first half. Blakeney, who played for Coach K at Durham, also managed to get five-star Makur Maker to commit to the program and has mined several other diamonds in the rough to build his program. He’s also well connected and respected in the industry.
This is far from an exhaustive list, as there are several other HBCU coaches who are well on their way to doing similar things. Alcorn State head coach Landon Bussie, Maryland-Eastern Shore’s Jason Crafton and a few others all come to mind.
As someone who covers and is a fan of HBCU basketball, selfishly I’d love to see all these coaches stay at HBCUs and continue to thrive. But this is a business, and money is something that HBCUs don’t always have compared to their peers. It would be great to have another generation of Big House Gaines, Dave Whitney and others of their ilk, but that should be a choice and not a confinement based on lazy, disrespectful notions about what HBCU coaches don’t do.