By Mark Haynes | Special to The OBSERVER
Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball programs have a history of successfully recruiting the top Black high school players in the country.
But tracking down Black head coaches for the conference has appeared to be much tougher. It has been four years since a Black head coach roamed the sidelines for any of the conference’s 12 universities.
“Pac-12 universities have a long history of supporting diversity and inclusion,” a spokesperson replied when asked by The OBSERVER about the conference’s lack of Black coaches. “While the conference is not directly involved in campus search and hiring decisions, it and its members are collectively committed to continuing to take steps to make progress in this critical area, including with respect to hiring minority coaches.”
The Pac-12’s last two Black men’s basketball coaches are Wyking Jones, who coached Cal from 2017-2019, and Lorenzo Romar, who led Washington from 2002-2017.
The conference’s lack of Black coaches has prompted some protests, which were intended to spark change and educate onlookers. One was held outside of Golden 1 Center on March 18 as it hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
A group of students and coaches from Sacramento’s Grant High School and Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School marched peacefully around the arena holding signs and wearing shirts that read, “Not 1 Black coach?”
A similar protest was organized by the same group during last year’s NCAA tournament outside Chase Center in San Francisco.
Protesters also held signs with the name “George Raveling” written on them. In 1972, Raveling was hired by Washington State to become the first Black basketball coach in what then was the Pac-8.
Jones, 50, was fired after his team went 8-23 in his final season. He is currently an assistant at Washington. Calls to him seeking comment on the Pac-12’s lack of Black coaches were not returned.
Romar, 64, since 2018 has been the coach at Pepperdine, the same school that gave him his first college head-coaching opportunity in 1996.
His résumé includes being a three-time Pac-12 coach of the year and Pac-10 tournament winner. In 2021 he led Pepperdine to a College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament championship.
Recruiting is among Romar’s strong suits. He said he understands the work required to find the right candidate if that truly is the objective.
“These are hard-to-come-by jobs,” Romar told The OBSERVER. “But if you want to hire the best, there are African Americans out there who know how to coach this game. It’s hard, but not that hard.”
The Pac-12 had four teams in this year’s NCAA tournament. UCLA had the most success, reaching the Sweet 16, where Gonzaga eliminated the Bruins in a 79-76 nail-biter.