“Our moral calling and purpose as coaches encompass the work of bringing awareness to injustices that impact our student-athletes, fans and communities,” the group’s announcement stated. “This begins with our unwavering commitment to generate sustainable action in efforts to eliminate prejudice, discrimination and oppression against people of color.”
The group was started by four Big East assistant coaches: Marquette’s Dwayne Killings, Villanova’s Kyle Neptune, Providence’s Ivan Thomas and UConn’s Kimani Young. The four coaches organized a call and invited every minority assistant coach in the league to it, and 18 of the 21 assistants ultimately joined the call, with representation from all 11 league schools.
“The consistent voice was we have to do something, we need to do something,” Killings told ESPN. “In this business, we’re almost taught not to communicate with each other. We’re competing for players, competing in games. But we think alike, we share the same interests. On the call, we’re laughing, we’re thinking about how to impact our communities. We have a really strong voice together. This moment in time has given us an opportunity to have conversations with leadership like never before. I don’t know if we’ve always had the loudest voice in the room. But that’s turning.”
The group has three initiatives on its agenda already. The first is to get Black Lives Matters patches on uniforms for every game next season, to bring awareness to the BLM movement as well as the initiatives of the Coaches For Action group. Also on the list is a scholarship fund for minority students across the country and initiatives around voting.
“We’re going to hold voting initiatives at our schools and in the communities where we coach,” Young told ESPN. “Not only registering them to vote, but teaching them about the impact of voting. When you talk to young people about voting, they just immediately think about voting for the president. That’s the only thing that comes up. But we want to educate people about voting for all three branches. We need people to come in and educate us as well: coaches, student-athletes, families.”
Thomas, with the support of Providence athletic director Bob Driscoll, presented to Big East officials about the initiatives of the program. According to the group, over half of the Big East schools have already provided their support for the BLM patch on jerseys.
“The coaches in our league have always spoken out about issues in the world, going back to John Thompson,” Killings said. “That’s in the fabric of our league.”
Long-term, the group’s goals focus far more on action and initiatives than simply raising awareness around certain issues.
“When we started talking, people just wanted to do something. Not just have conversations. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but we’re definitely trying to come up with things that will help create change,” Neptune told ESPN. “The patch is great. But moving forward, the goal of the group is to do things beyond that. The opportunities are endless.”