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Column: Trinity League has a hiring problem when it comes to high school football coaches

Santa Margarita basketball coach Justin Williams-Bell reacts from the sideline during a game.
Santa Margarita basketball coach Justin Williams-Bell, center, reacts from the sideline during a game. Williams-Bell, who was hired two years ago, is the school’s first Black basketball coach.
(Nick Koza)

Sometimes progress is slow. In the case of the Trinity League’s record of hiring a Black head football coach at a time when its top football players are Black, the progress is nonexistent. There’s yet to be a Black head coach since the league was created in 2006. And before that, when the same schools were in the Serra League, there were none.

And yet, all six private schools always seek out Black assistants. We all know what the stereotypical job classification is — recruiter. They usually have ties to a youth program and their job is to bring in minority players. Others become coordinators and get stuck.

It’s sad, it’s embarrassing and it needs to change.

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Orange Lutheran hiring of Rod Sherman, a former Lancer athletic director and highly regarded former coach, on Monday to fill the coaching vacancy created by getting rid of alumnus JP Presley is just another example of a league that likes its candidates to have ties to its schools.

It truly is the good old boy network.

While Santa Ana Mater Dei and Bellflower St. John Bosco haven’t needed to make coaching changes for years, Orange Lutheran, Santa Margarita, JSerra and Servite have had openings since the 1990s.

None hired a Black head coach. Most went with individuals with school ties. JSerra just announced on Wednesday that head coach Pat Harlow has resigned, creating another opening. “I felt like it was the right time to leave,” Harlow said.

Santa Margarita made history two years ago hiring its first Black basketball coach, Justin Williams-Bell, a former UC Riverside assistant. He’s only the second Black basketball coach in the Trinity League. Derrick Taylor at Bellflower St. John Bosco was the first.

Other private schools have had success hiring Black head coaches in basketball, including Chatsworth Sierra Canyon, Brentwood, Loyola, Burbank Providence, North Hollywood Campbell Hall and Santa Monica Crossroads.

It’s disappointing that Trinity schools have been unable to find Black alumni who are interested in going into teaching and coaching and preparing them to become head coaches. That seems to be the best way to climb the ladder because these schools obviously feel ties to their communities are very important.

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I know one Black head football coach at a public school who applied for the Orange Lutheran job, but he was never interviewed.

He got a letter that read , “Thank you for your interest in the position of head football coach. We have carefully reviewed your experience and background against our criteria. While your credentials and experience represent significance accomplishments, we found the qualifications of other applicants to more closely fit our needs at this time.”

The CEO of Orange Lutheran, Mary Scott, said at least one Black candidate was interviewed for the position.

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This isn’t a discussion about whether Sherman was the best candidate for the job. He’s a proven coach and probably the best hire if being familiar with the school is a top priority.

But the failure of schools to be risk takers or create opportunities to attract diverse candidates with strong credentials can only go on so long in a changing environment.

Yes, parents of Black athletes care about preparing their children for college, and the color of someone’s skin should not matter. It’s the competency of a coach’s teaching skills that matter.

But as year after year go by and Trinity League schools continue to say they can’t find a qualified, competent Black head football coach, there could be a day when parents decide to place their trust and confidence somewhere else.


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