A few years back, police in Gainesville, Fla., pulled over Carolyn Peck.
Over a loud bullhorn, an officer instructed her to step out of the vehicle. He asked her what she was doing in the neighborhood.
Peck lived half a block away.
Her story, sadly, is not fluke. It’s a common experience among black folks who live or pass through predominantly white neighborhoods. They are made to feel like they don’t belong, even if they pay taxes in that area, just as their white neighbors do.
Peck recalled that anecdote during a Zoom panel on Wednesday, after fellow coach Geno Auriemma described his own recent conversations with players. Auriemma said he was emphasizing the importance of voting on a local level.
Voting won’t fix systemic problems by itself, though. Especially not for black players in predominantly white areas. If a cop has a deeply rooted racial bias, voting won’t change that. They simply don’t belong with a badge or a gun.
“We have such a long way to go. We are such a long way from where we need to be,” recently retired Notre Dame head coach Muffett McGraw told the panel.
Auriemma offered telling observations on what he has witnessed with coaching in the women’s game. He regularly gets calls, he said, from athletic directors at Power Five schools who specifically ask for his shortlist of women of color for potential head coaching gigs.
Auriemma was clear to say he didn’t mean to defend athletic directors’ hiring practices outright, but has noticed efforts being made for inclusivity.
According to the NCAA, 25 percent of Division NCAAW coaches are black. Ten of the 12 coaches leading power five programs have been hired since 2012.
In that same discussion, between four of the best coaches women’s college hoops has ever seen — Peck, Auriemma, McGraw, and Dawn Staley — Staley said she had never personally received a call from an A.D. asking for head coaching referrals.
Which is interesting given the fact that Staley is the only woman of color to win a NCAAWB national title in the last 20 years.
Meanwhile, Auriemma is being contacted about prospective women of color for coaching jobs, when he himself only has one on his staff?
Peck said that in the last three years she had only gotten two calls from athletic directors, even though she was the first black woman head coach to win a title.
For so long, I personally believed NCAAW was a very progressive league. McGraw reminded us that’s not the case. They still have a long way to go.