Success ‘based on African American families trusting me with their child’

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Friday that he will do more to help minorities gain access to opportunities and acknowledged how black players have impacted his success.

“Where I am now is based on African American families trusting me with their child,” Calipari said during the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ “Using Your Platform as a Coach During this Critical Time” webinar. “I wouldn’t be here.”

Calipari said he is going to propose a minority internship program at Kentucky to help create opportunities in administrative, fundraising, marketing and other elements of the athletic department.

“How about we get athletic departments to start looking different?” he said. “That’s what we can have an influence on.”

Coaches throughout college basketball are pondering ways to use their positions to effect change nearly two weeks after the death of George Floyd, who was killed when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes, an incident that was captured on video.

Calipari was joined on the webinar by multiple coaches. Some of the minority coaches on the call recounted some of their experiences with police officers.

Former Washington State coach Ernie Kent said a police officer drew a gun on him and a teammate when he was a player at Oregon. South Carolina coach Frank Martin said he regretted staying silent after an officer stopped him in Pennsylvania and made fun of his first name (Francisco) during a trip to a basketball camp.

Tulane’s Ron Hunter said he brings a judge and a police officer to his first practice every season to have a discussion with his players about potential police encounters. Calipari said he has asked NBA security officials to speak to his players about ways to react when they’re stopped by police.

They all said Floyd’s death has encouraged them to come together and discuss pertinent issues.

“When I first saw [the video], it brought tears to my eyes,” Kent said. “It made me sad, more so because there was nothing you could do in that moment, and then from there, it became anger. It became anger because you have a flood of emotions and a flood of thoughts.”

Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said it’s important to diversify collegiate sports and to focus on the key issues.

“We can talk about opportunities and putting more people that are people of color in positions, but the thing that has to be talked about and defined so that people understand is racism,” he said.

Penn State’s Pat Chambers said coaches have to continue the conversation to make a lasting impact.

“With racial and social injustice, we’ve gotta make this a consistent fight that we’re not going to stand for this,” he said. “It can’t just be on this call today, and we know this.”

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