Black coaches decry a dearth of opportunities
This is an article from the June 10, 1991 issue
The mood was somber in Atlanta at the recent meeting of the 3,000-member Black Coaches Association (BCA). Most of the group's members are college coaches, so naturally many of the inequities discussed at the meeting were ones occurring at that level. For example, the BCA drafted a resolution opposing new NCAA regulations that would reduce the number of college assistant coaches as of August 1992. The BCA members reasoned that the cuts will be disproportionately felt by black assistants, who are, as Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson put it, "low man on the totem pole."
But the NFL came in for attention too. Although commissioner Paul Tagliabue deserves plaudits for hiring blacks to fill responsible positions in the league office—including Harold Henderson as executive vice-president of labor relations, Leo Miles as a supervisor of officials, and Reggie Roberts as the director of information for the NFC—his example has not been followed by the clubs.
While there were 52 black coaches in the NFL last season (up from 14 in 1981), these included just one head coach, the Los Angeles Raiders' Art Shell, and three offensive or defensive coordinators. (Jimmy Raye was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, Terry Robiskie the offensive coordinator for the Raiders, and Ray Sherman the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons. Only Robiskie returns this season as a coordinator.) In a league in which an increasing number of quarterbacks are black, there are no black quarterback coaches. Only 15 of the 28 teams in the league had more than one black assistant on their staffs in 1990.
Tony Dungy, the Kansas City Chiefs' secondary coach, who is black and is entering his 11th season as an NFL assistant, said at the meeting, "It seems people feel that once they get one [black coach], there's no need for another. It's like, 'Well, we feel we've done our job. We've reached our quota.' "
The few black coaches there are in the league tend to be assigned to coach receivers, running backs and defensive backs, positions dominated by blacks. Raye, who is now the passing-game coach for the Los Angeles Rams and has been an assistant in the NFL for 14 seasons, says, "To be a coordinator, and thus a candidate for a head coaching job, you've got to be the guy running the seven-on-seven [passing] drills. The further removed you are from that, the further removed you are from the opportunity [for a head coaching job in the NFL]."
Raye has been interviewed five times for head coaching jobs. He said that four were "affirmative action-type" interviews, meaning he felt he had no real shot at those jobs. In fact, no blacks were interviewed for any of the five head coaching vacancies in the NFL this off-season. As another of the league's black executives, David Cornwell, the NFL's assistant counsel and director of equal employment, said, "The denial of opportunities has nothing to do with ability."
Floyd Patterson's son is a featherweight contender
Before his scheduled 10-round bout against Francisco Ortiz at the Granit Hotel in Kerhonkson, N.Y., last Friday night, featherweight Tracy Harris Patterson sat in his dressing room and had his hands taped by his manager, trainer and adoptive father, Floyd Patterson. Both were silent as Floyd, the two-time heavyweight champion, now 56, did the wrapping. Then Floyd said, "How does it feel?"
That's a question Floyd hasn't had to ask his son very often. Floyd knows how it feels to be a loner in a large family, to be seeking purpose through boxing. He felt lost in a family of 11 children when the late trainer Cus D'Amato took him in, in 1950. That's why he opened his arms to Tracy 15 years ago, when the 70-pound 11-year-old started haunting his gym in New Paltz, N.Y. "He never said anything," says Floyd, "but he showed up seven days a week and hung around after everyone else had left. He was so much like I had been, I just fell in love with him."
When Tracy's mother and five brothers headed back to their native Alabama three years later, Tracy wanted to stay. His home, he said, was in the ring. Patterson became his legal guardian and adopted him four years later. In turn, Tracy adopted Patterson's bob-and-weave, peekaboo style. Going into Friday's bout, he had parlayed that into a 40-2 record, with 29 KOs, and had become the No. 1 WBA and WBC contender at 122 pounds. Tracy says he has been ready for a title fight for a year, but his manager is playing it safe. "I know how it feels to be hit," says Floyd. "The moment Tracy gets hurt, I want to stop the fight. I've had to learn to let him go. Most other managers would have had him fighting for a title 20 fights ago. But I want to be sure he's ready."
On Friday night Tracy looked ready. Midway through the fifth round a left hook to the belly brought a gasping Ortiz to his knees and added another KO to Tracy's record. Tracy will probably challenge WBA champ Luis Mendoza or WBC title-holder Kiyoshi Hatanaka this fall—after, says Dad, one or two more fights. "The waiting will be worth it," Tracy says. "Once I do become champion, I'll be able to work to keep it, because I've fought so long to get there."
Soccer's hero takes a world-class tumble
Diego Maradona has probably fallen further, faster than any athlete who has ever lived. Once the world's most celebrated soccer player, Maradona's world has come crashing down upon him.
•In February, police in Naples, Italy, where he has played for the past seven years, alleged that Maradona had attempted to acquire illegal drugs. Maradona denies this.
•In March, Maradona tested positive for cocaine and was suspended for 15 months by the Italian Soccer Federation and FIFA, soccer's international governing body.
•On April Fools' Day, Maradona flew from Naples to his native Argentina, leaving several lawsuits in his wake. One was a paternity suit (he has denied fathering the child), and another was brought by his club in Naples. The club sued Diarma, a Liechtenstein-based marketing firm that it pays for Maradona's services. After paying the firm $9 million of a $14.5 million deal, the club suspended further payments and sued for damages suffered as a result of Maradona's "negative" image.
•On April 26, Buenos Aires police arrested Maradona on drug possession charges. Maradona was apprehended during a police raid on an apartment building that police say is frequented by drug users and dealers.
•Last week, Maradona was indicted by a Naples prosecutor on charges of cocaine possession, stemming from the allegations made there in February. A court date has been set for June 26, but it was not known if Maradona would return to Italy for the trial.
Whatever the outcome of his legal entanglements, Maradona stands to lose as much as $20 million in salary and endorsements over the next two years. He still has a chance to earn a few million, though, if he takes up a reported offer to play in Japan, which is not a FIFA member. How much Japan will want him if he sinks deeper into scandal is questionable.
In Argentina, at least, Maradona remains a hero. When the police dragged him out of the building on April 26, a crowd chanted, "Olè, olè, olè, Die-go, Die-go!" as if Dieguito had just slammed in a beauty of a goal.
A New Life of Riley
The New York Knicks get a coach and a fresh image
Pat Riley was introduced last Friday afternoon as the New York Knicks' latest coach, their sixth in the past six years, if anyone's still counting. And if the Knicks didn't exactly release balloons inscribed with the words A NEW ERA, there was certainly that feeling in the air. Veteran guard Trent Tucker said Riley lends "instant credibility" to New York, while guard Gerald Wilkins referred to Riley as "the Michael Jordan of coaches." The five-year deal will pay Riley about $6 million plus bonuses, but even at that price the move makes sense for the Knicks. Riley has charisma and credibility in a town that demands both.
But why, apart from the money, did Riley take the job, which, given New York's sorry performance this season, seems likely to tarnish his sterling reputation? Many NBA fans, in fact, are still trying to figure out why Riley quit coaching the Los Angeles Lakers after last season to become a studio host on NBC's NBA telecasts. Riley has never publicly explained that move, but here are some of the factors that mattered most.
•Riley steered the Laker ship for the better part of nine seasons, and the players, even those who, like A.C. Green, deeply respected Riley, had had their fill of his hard practices and constant motivational ploys.
•With his cinematic presence and L.A. for a stage, Riley received far more attention than any other NBA coach. The NBA is a player-oriented league, and some of the Lakers were plainly jealous of Riley.
•Even those close to Riley admit that he overdid his criticism of the Lakers during their five-game flame-out against the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs last spring. Several players complained about Riley's behavior to owner Jerry Buss and G.M. Jerry West. By then Riley had already had casual conversations with Buss about leaving, and when Riley seemed to vacillate about returning, Buss and West agreed it was time for him to depart.
Riley's primary reasons for taking the Knick job are simple: He missed the action, and he considers himself a coach first and foremost. He has utter confidence in his abilities as both a strategist and a motivator. Now comes the hard part. He actually has to coach these guys.
Justify My Glove
Actresses who want to play baseball turn to Joe Russo
Want the scouting report on Madonna? You won't get it in Hollywood or Cannes or even Manhattan. You'll have to go to Queens, N.Y., and ask Joe Russo, the veteran baseball coach at St. John's University, to get it. "A very strong and compact girl," says Russo. "Great potential."
Russo spent a few hours this spring teaching the Material Girl the basics of baseball. Believe it or not, she had no idea how to get to first base, much less second, third or home. "Take your stance," Russo said. "What's a stance?" Madonna asked.
That's when Russo, a genial 47-year-old father of three, whom one member of the St. John's athletic department describes as "Tommy Lasorda before the diet," knew he had his hands full. By the end of their session, though, Madonna was beginning to hit the ball, and Russo was beginning to think she might have a shot at landing a role in the upcoming movie A League of Their Own.
The film, which will focus on the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, a women's hardball circuit that operated from 1943 to '54, was supposed to begin shooting last year, but the producers were unable to find enough prospects with credible baseball skills (not too surprising, since general managers around the major leagues have a similar problem). Director Penny Marshall hired former Southern Cal coach Rod Dedeaux as her Los Angeles talent scout, and he in turn enlisted Russo, who reached the 500 mark in career victories this spring, to help out with any East Coast auditioners. Besides Madonna, Joan Jett, Demi Moore, Ally Sheedy, Brooke Shields and Uma Thurman journeyed to Queens for instruction.
Russo won't handicap his students, but he allows that Moore won't remind anyone of Girls League star Sophie Kurys (SCORECARD, April 15). The lead role in the movie is expected to go to Debra Winger, who worked out with Dedeaux in Los Angeles, but other parts are still up for grabs. Casting decisions must be made soon though, since filming is expected to begin this summer in Evansville, Ind. Of his behind-the-scenes role, Russo says, "The most important thing is, I have to make sure they don't throw like girls. A lot of them do, you know."
[Thumb Up]To the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, for levying a tax on 49er tickets (75 cents) and Giants tickets (25 cents) beginning next season, with the resulting revenues earmarked to help subsidize local school sports programs.
[Thumb Down]To Steve Wynn, owner of the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, for promoting a plan to build canals throughout the city's downtown. The $25 million project would waste five million gallons of water a year in an area that already faces severe water shortages.
[Thumb Down]To Bill Laimbeer and Hudson Soft USA, Inc., for marketing "Bill Laimbeer's Combat Basketball," a video game in which a court turns into a battlefield, the players wear armor and fans hurl missiles and saw blades at them.
THEY SAID IT
Pete Carril, Princeton basketball coach, to new assistant Armond Hill, after asking Hill to devote less time to his avocation, art: "We've got two kids named Art coming in next year. You can have them both to work with."
Mychal Thompson, Los Angeles Laker backup center, on teammate Vlade Divac: "He's a quick learner, but he forgets quick too."
Making a List
The World League of American Football championship game, the World Bowl, is scheduled for this Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London. SI's Peter King asked three NFL personnel directors who have scouted the WLAF to list their top prospects. Here is their composite list:
1. Anthony Parker, CORNERBACK, New York/New Jersey Knights—11 interceptions (played at Arizona State).
2. Danny Lockett, OUTSIDE LINEBACKER, London Monarchs—13.5 sacks (Arizona).
3. Ricky Blake, RUNNING BACK, San Antonio Riders—4.6 yards per carry, five TDs (Alabama A&M).
4. Richard Stephens, OFFENSIVE TACKLE, Sacramento Surge—6'6", 308 pounds (Tulsa).
5. Eric Mitchel, RUNNING BACK, Orlando Thunder—6.7 yards per carry, three TDs (Oklahoma).
6. Roy Hart, NOSETACKLE, London Monarchs—10.5 sacks (South Carolina).
7. Paul Palmer, RUNNING BACK, Barcelona Dragons—3.8 yards per carry, 18.9 per kickoff return (Temple).
8. Steve Gabbard, GUARD, London Monarchs—6'3", 293 pounds (Florida State).
9. Scott Erney, QUARTERBACK, Barcelona Dragons—7.51 yards per completion, eight TD passes (Rutgers).
10. Chris Mohr, PUNTER, Montreal Machine—42.7-yard average (Alabama).
Replay: 10 Years Ago in Sports Illustrated
Greg Luzinski appeared on the cover of the June 8, 1981, issue after two laudable moves by the White Sox: They took over first place, and they decided to redesign their uniforms. We also wrote about Ben Oglivie, the Milwaukee Brewers outfielder, who said, "One of the best quotes I know comes from Augustine: 'The body manifests what the mind harbors.' " That would be Saint Augustine? "Actually it was Jerry Augustine, our relief pitcher."