Things happened so quickly last fall at Kingsborough Community
College, in Brooklyn, that no one had a chance to tell the
players everything. The men's basketball coach had resigned; the
players knew that. It was the first day of tryouts; they knew
that, too. Then 25-year-old Kerri-Ann McTiernan, a former
All-America at Johns Hopkins, walked into the gym and introduced
herself to the players, explaining what she expected from them
and informing them that there would be some cuts. The wheels
raced inside the players' heads. She's the coach? But she's a she.
"You should have seen the looks on their faces," McTiernan says
with a laugh. One small layup for womankind.
Never before had a woman been a head coach of a men's basketball
team at a college in the U.S. That is a shame. As Spike Lee says
in the Nike commercial in which three women go to a playground
and school some men, "Basketball is basketball, athletes are
athletes." Doesn't it stand to reason, too, that coaches are
Yet as the yearly ritual of basketball hirings and firings winds
down, every vacancy in the men's programs is being filled by a
man. There are many talented women working the sidelines around
the country: Pat Summitt, for instance, has coached Tennessee to
four NCAA women's titles. But except for Tennessee athletic
director Doug Dickey, who approached Summitt in 1994 about
coaching the Volunteer men (she declined), no AD has called
Summitt to talk about a men's job. Not one.
Of course, Summitt insists she has no desire to leave the job
she has. Neither do Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, Roy Williams of
Kansas, Jim Harrick of UCLA or Rick Majerus of Utah, yet every
spring a few ADs dial these coaches' numbers anyway, figuring it
couldn't hurt to ask.
Let's face it, there's not a huge surplus of qualified men for
these jobs. Of the 37 men who have been hired during the
off-season to coach Division I men's basketball teams, only 10
have been Division I head coaches before, and eight have never
been head coaches anywhere.
What would happen if a woman with excellent credentials decided
to pursue a men's job, even if it meant working at a small-time
school? Consider the case of Marianne Stanley, who coached Old
Dominion's women to three national championships, in 1979, '80,
and '85. Stanley took over the USC women's program in 1989 but
left that job in 1993 because the school wouldn't give her the
same salary it was paying George Raveling, then the Trojans
men's coach. (Stanley also filed an $8 million
sex-discrimination lawsuit against USC and its athletic
director, which was dismissed by a federal judge in March 1995
and which Stanley is appealing.) Stanley was hired as women's
co-coach at Stanford last year and in April was named the
women's head coach at California. But in the last year she has
also applied for 42 men's jobs, at all levels of the college
game. Only two schools called her back, according to Stanley,
and neither of those called twice. "And they were Division III
schools," Stanley says. "Others just sent back a form letter.
Most didn't even do that."
Three of the ADs who hired coaches this spring offered these
reasons for not selecting women: Ed Manetta of St. John's said
no women applied for the job. Bruce Corrie of Robert Morris said
a couple of women applied at his school, but he prefers men to
coach his men's teams and women to coach his women's teams.
Jeremy Foley of Florida said approaching Summitt had never
crossed his mind. "Maybe it's a matter of educating people like
myself," he said.
In 1972, when Title IX was enacted, more than 90% of women's
teams were coached by women. Twenty-two years later the number
of women's teams had increased, but most of the new coaching
jobs had gone to men; according to a study conducted at Brooklyn
College, only 49.4% of women's teams were being coached by
women. Coaches such as Connecticut's Geno Auriemma and Louisiana
Tech's Leon Barmore have demonstrated it is possible for men to
overcome gender differences and win with female players. So why
couldn't women coaches succeed similarly with male players?
For answers, we are left with only nagging misconceptions: A
woman can't motivate men. A woman can't recruit men. A woman
can't teach a fast game that's played above the rim. Such
notions not only sell female coaches short, but they shortchange
male players as well. Given the close relationships many players
have with their mothers, might they not be as comfortable with a
female authority figure in the gym?
The question won't be answered anytime soon. "Let's face it,"
Summitt says, "we live in a man's world." A qualified woman
coach has only one hope. She needs to find an athletic director
who's man enough to give her a chance.