Daily Archives: December 16, 2008

Barkley, among others, not in favor of Auburn hire

barkleyxNew Auburn head coach Gene Chizik has had his name mentions in several media outlets this week after being named Tommy Tubberville’s replacement.

One being that many believe Turner Gill, who just accepted an extension at Buffalo, was the man for the job, not Chizik. A major factor in the discussion comes in the fact that Gill is black, and was more qualified than Chizik, whose only previous head coaching experience was with a less than mediocre Iowa State team that he lead to 5-19 in two seasons.

Five wins in two years got Chizik an offer of a two-year contract extension at Iowa State. He reportedly will receive a five-year contract worth about $2 million a year from Auburn, about double his former deal which included a $750,000 buyout, according to ESPN.com.

The general consensus is that Chizik should not have been hired. Another conclusion that many have come to is that Chizik was hired simply because his closest competitor was black. None said this more bluntly than former NBA star and Auburn alum Charles Barkley.

“I think race was the No. 1 factor,” said Barkley, who played basketball for three seasons at Auburn during the early 1980s. “You can say it’s not about race, but you can’t compare the two résumés and say [Chizik] deserved the job. Out of all the coaches they interviewed, Chizik probably had the worst résumé.”

When Gill took over at Buffalo, they sat in the basement of the MAC conference. In three years time, Gill turned Buffalo into an 8-5 team who upset upset previously unbeaten Ball State 42-24 in the Dec. 5 MAC championship. Chizik went 5-19 in two years at Iowa State, with his assistant coaching ties to Auburn, and race believed in some cases, as the only reason he was given the position.

Barkley said he had previously warned Gill about racial barriers he would face on the Auburn campus, in Alabama and anywhere else he chose to coach.

“We talked about the whole race thing in Alabama,” Barkley said. “I told him it’s there and it’s going to be anywhere you go. I told him you can’t not take the job because of racism. He was worried about being nothing more than a token interview. He was concerned about having a white wife. It’s just very disappointing to me.”

This wasn’t the first time Barkley was disappointed with his Alma Mater.

When they were searching for a head coach for the 2003-04 season, Barkley offered his services, adding he would only serve if the committee was ready to hire a black coach. Barkley told ESPN.com that he presented three high-quality candidates: former Indiana coach Mike Davis, then-Virginia Commonwealth coach Jeff Capel and then-UAB coach Mike Anderson.

They went with then-Chattanooga coach Jeff Lebo., who has gone 61-68 in his fifth season. Barkley said he was removed from the committee before the hire.

“Out of all the basketball coaches they interviewed, they picked the only one who hadn’t been to the NCAA tournament,” Barkley said.

While Barkley made a case on the basketball and football front for his former school, the nationwide number of black coaches in college football are far more sparse. There are only four African-American coaches of the 119 Football Bowl Subdivision. The number before this season was seven; that was before the resignation of Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State and firing of coaches Tyrone Willingham at Washington, Ronald Prince at Kansas State.

The players on of the FBS’ 119 teams are overwhelmingly black, on campuses that claim to foster diversity, so what gives? Auburn did interview two black coaches, a degree that many committees don’t reach in their search for a head coach. Only time will tell if the racial disparity among coaches will ever change, but for now there is a dearth of diversity and it shouldn’t take comments from Charles Barkley to spark conversation on racial issues in college football.

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No end to Cheeks’s classiness

71797411JG_D040738006A rash of firings have happened in the NBA season, with eight coaches being shown the door before All-Star Weekend. None have gone before the public to give thanks as Cheeks did in a recent press conference.

Only three days removed from his firing, former Philadelphia 76ers head coach Maurice Cheeks held a press conference to thank the media and fans. He also used to time to absorb the blaim for his team’s slow start, which is unheard of in many coaching, or professional sports, circles, for that matter.

The classiest coach in basketball continued to lay on the charm that marked his all-star career and stellar coaching stay in Philly.

“Sometimes being fired is one of the things that entails being a head coach,” he said. “”In my case, it was the coach.”

Or a team full of millionaires who underachieved — not to mention the acquisition of an all star in Elton Brad who his new team needed time to become accustomed to, and he the team. The potential-filled team got off to a 9-14 start, leading to Cheeks’s firing.

The time spent as head coach weren’t the only years in Philly for Cheeks, he was a player for more 15 years in which he was a four-time all star. His jersey was retired by the 76ers in 1995. Cheeks said there was no way he’d up and leave the city of Philadelphia.

“I think it would have been selfish for me to just pick up and leave and go and not show my appreciation to the people that have supported me,” he said. “I pretty much grew up in this town.”

Cheeks also said he was in favor of staying with the organization, although he has not been approached by the 76ers for any position thus far.

“I’ve been a part of this town a long time and I don’t plan on going anywhere,” he said. “If the opportunity is there for me to be in the organization, I’m more than happy to do that.”

Cheeks is a great man, whom did a great job in his time in Philly. There is no doubt in my mind that he will be sorely missed by the 76ers.

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