Is diversity just for those other teams hiring coaches?

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It’s interesting to watch the Chronicle‘s sport columnists dance around the issue of minorities in sports management roles, and the performance of local teams in that regard.

Back in June of 2004, Richard Justice criticized the Astros pretty harshly for what he deemed a lack of diversity:

Let’s summarize:

They’ll have an all-white starting lineup most nights once Adam Everett returns.

They don’t have a single African-American on their roster or coaching staff and very few in their minor-league system.

They have one African-American – Marian Harper, vice president, community development – in a prominent front office position.


Do I believe the Astros are racist?

I absolutely do not.

Do I believe they’ve been vigilant in this area?

Of course not.

Columnist Jose de Jesus Ortiz countered (unsurprisingly) in July of 2004 with a column that asserted that Drayton McLane is “pushing diversity at every level.” Well, except at the level of who would run his own team, as Ortiz explained:

First of all, the Astros must be commended for hiring Phil Garner. If anything, they were a month late in realizing the team had taken on Jimy Williams’ lack of personality.

And if Garner succeeds this year, they should lift the interim tag off and hire him without even going through commissioner Bud Selig’s mandate to interview minority candidates.

That exercise often uses minorities when, in essence, teams are already “more comfortable” with a white candidate.

In November of 2004, John Lopez checked in, acknowledging the Astros’ lack of African-Americans in management, but still defending personnel decisions:

THERE was no need for charades. Halloween is over. There was no need for pandering. The election is done.

There was no need for empty words, make-believe righteousness or a halfhearted show of inclusiveness. There was no need for the Astros to go through the motions of fulfilling the baseball commissioner’s diversity initiative by faux-interviewing minority candidates for either the general manager or field manager’s jobs.

The Astros got their men. They got the best and most deserving men for these jobs, no doubt.

They acted swiftly and, with commissioner Bud Selig’s permission, took the “interim” off Phil Garner’s managerial title Wednesday without having to go through an interviewing process that would have been a sham.

Anything else would have been insulting to everyone, especially minority candidates.

Fast forward to January 2006, and the number of head coaching jobs that opened at the end of the NFL regular season. The NFL, like Major League Baseball, has a policy that promotes consideration of minority candidates. But Chronicle writers have had little to say about the “Rooney rule.” Early this month, Megan Manfull wrote:

For decades, the NFL has been slow to hire minority coaches, but the trend is slowly starting to change where black coaches are concerned. Six teams employed a black head coach in 2005, marked improvement from 1988 when there were no black head coaches in the NFL.

Smith (Chicago), Lewis (Cincinnati) and Dungy (Indianapolis) each won his respective division this season, and they will vie to become the first black coaches to reach the Super Bowl.

Their success comes three years after the NFL introduced the Rooney Rule, which states franchises must interview “one or more minority applicants” for head coaching positions. Of the 17 positions filled since the rule was implemented, five were black candidates.

That number could rise in the coming weeks as seven franchises search for new head coaches….


The Texans have complied with the Rooney Rule during their search. Their first five interviews included two black candidates — Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Jerry Gray and Texans wide receivers coach Kippy Brown.

Some of the top black assistant coaches who are expected to be interviewed by other clubs include Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary, Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis. The top Latino candidate is Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

As news outlets have reported, the Texans will announce Gary Kubiak as their head coach once his current team reaches the end of its season. No new black coaches have been named to fill the head coaching jobs that opened at the end of the season (Herman Edwards moved laterally to Kansas City).That led John Lopez to blast all those teams (but the Texans) in a column today:

The NFL took great pride this year … hailing the Rooney Rule as one of its great successes.

Lewis, Dungy and Lovie Smith took their teams to the playoffs. Two of the other three minority head coaches in the league — Edwards and Dennis Green — also have taken teams to the playoffs. And Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel, leader of the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl defenses, improved the Browns in his first season as head coach.

So how did the league’s owners respond to the success stories? By returning to the same old story: Token interviews and questionable hires, not one of which likely will be a minority.

Gray and Rivera interviewed for the vacant Green Bay Packers job. Both are eminently more qualified than the man the Pack hired, Mike McCarthy, who guided the league’s worst offense (224 yards per game) and 30th-ranked scoring offense (14.9 points per game) last year. When McCarthy was Packers quarterbacks coach in 1999, Brett Favre had the worst season of his prime, throwing 23 interceptions to 22 touchdowns.

When Rivera and Gray heard the news of McCarthy’s hire, they must have responded like most Packers fans. Huh? Whaaa?

Individually, the NFL’s hires this postseason certainly can be justified by those who made them — some legitimately so, like the Texans picking Gary Kubiak. Considering what the Texans need, what Kubiak offers and his credentials, he was the perfect pick.

But as a whole, the league must be embarrassed over how this remarkable year for coaching opportunities will end.

I’m not a fan of rules that mandate interviews of minority candidates for head coaching jobs. I think such rules can lead to the “token” interviews of minority candidates that some of the columns cited above criticize, and can cause other problems.

But some of the columnists I’ve cited seem to believe that promotion of diversity and minority candidates needs to be taken even more seriously than it already is by sports leagues. Yet the locals inexplicably let the Houston sports teams off the hook. Apparently, diversity is mighty important for those other teams. Houston teams are just looking for the best guy for the job (never mind that he’s never black or Hispanic).

Such arguments seem terribly inconsistent, and difficult to take seriously.

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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX