Syracuse University men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim and members of his staff have taken real steps in joining the fight for social justice.
Boeheim was recently announced as one of several prominent college mentors in the McLendon Foundation Minority Leadership Initiative, while SU strength-and-conditioning coach Ryan Cabiles and assistant coach Gerry McNamara have each linked up with Coaches 4 Change.
The McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative was created, according to its website, to provide minorities a jump-start to their careers through practical experiences, opportunities to network, and instilling the values of Hall of Fame coach John McLendon — integrity, education, leadership, and mentorship.
Boeheim is one of the many NCAA basketball and football coaches serving as initiative ambassadors, along with program co-chairs Tommy Amaker of Harvard and Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“I’m excited, think it’s a great program,” Boeheim said during a recent phone interview.
“Everybody talks about doing things to help minority students and I think this is a tangible way that we’re going to be able to get people in positions,” he said. “Most interns get an opportunity to show what they can do and they get jobs out of it, I was an intern, basically, as an assistant when I got out of college and then I got a job.”
Boeheim said that he and other coaches intend to help recent minority college graduates aiming for a career in athletics a chance to work in different areas of the department, such as marketing or ticket sales.
“This is a good way to get people involved in athletic administration, and we need more minority groups involved,” said Boeheim, who is approaching his 45th season as head coach of his alma mater.
McLendon was the basketball coach for North Carolina Central (1940-52), Hampton Institute (1952-54), Tennessee State (1954-59), and Kentucky State (1963-66) before being hired by Cleveland State (1966-69) as the first Black basketball coach at a predominantly white university.
McLendon is a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and was part of the U.S. men’s basketball coaching staff for the 1968 and 1972 Olympics. He also worked as head coach of the ABA’s Denver Rockets.
The McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative has enlisted football coaches such as Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney along with a host of basketball leaders.
Boeheim is one of more than 50 men’s basketball coaches overall and seven from the Atlantic Coast Conference to take on the ambassador role, joining Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams, (North Carolina), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Chris Mack (Louisville), Mike Brey (Notre Dame), and Josh Pastner (Georgia Tech).
Calipari and Amaker announced the launch of the initiative in mid-July.
“It was really important for me to take a step back these past few weeks and listen, now it’s time to take action,” Calipari told the Kentucky athletics website after announcing the program. “The MLI is about access and opportunity.”
McNamara and Cabiles were each announced as members of Coaches 4 Change — C4C — in late July.
The stated mission of C4C is to provide a platform that engages, educates, empowers, and evolves the collegiate student-athlete on issues of social injustices, systematic racism, and the power of voting in the pursuit of equality.