‘We can change the world’: Talking race as an NCAA basketball coach in 2017

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BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA- Lindsay Gottlieb, head women’s basketball coach at Cal-Berkeley

Two days after she got back to California from a foreign tour with her team in New Zealand and Australia, California-Berkeley women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb talked to me while driving. Her newborn son, Jordan, was in the back seat making his presence known with occasional baby noises. I realized Jordan was a unique reminder of how important the conversation we were having was—Jordan is the son of Gottlieb, a white woman, and her fiancé Patrick Martin, a black man.

The question I posed to Gottlieb and several dozen other coaches, some of whom I knew already and some I didn’t, was this:

“As the head coach of a sport whose participants are mostly minorities, what is your role as a leader considering the current racial climate in our country?”

Of the 42 coaches I reached out to, just four agreed to be interviewed, three of them on the record and one of them on background, after her university requested she not reveal her identity. Of the remaining 38 coaches, just six responded to say “thanks but no thanks” for a variety of reasons. The other 32 simply did not respond.

Along with Gottlieb, I also spoke with DeUnna Hendrix (High Point University), Tricia Cullop (University of Toledo) and another on background. Here’s how these four women think about their leadership role relative to race.

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