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Gonzaga’s Mark Few, WSU’s Kyle Smith join initiative to enhance job opportunities for minority candidates

UPDATED: Mon., July 13, 2020

Gonzaga coach Mark Few looks on during a November win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff.  (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga coach Mark Few looks on during a November win over Arkansas Pine-Bluff. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga’s Mark Few and Washington State’s Kyle Smith are among 50-plus collegiate coaches from multiple sports across the country joining an initiative to enhance job opportunities for minority candidates.

The McLendon Leadership Initiative (MLI) program, organized by Kentucky coach John Calipari and Harvard’s Tommy Amaker, was launched to “create access to and opportunity for meaningful employment experience for minority candidates.”

The program is named in honor of pioneer Hall of Fame coach John McLendon, who is believed to be the first Black basketball coach at a predominately white university and the first Black coach in the professional ranks.

Participating coaches have made a multiyear commitment. They will serve as mentors and ambassadors that would promote and be the point of funding for the program.

“The thing I love about this is this is action,” Few said Monday on Calipari’s ‘Coffee with Cal’ Facebook Live show. “We’re finally doing something. We can all talk about stuff, we can talk about playing hard, playing defense, but your actions show where your values are. We had a guy speak to our team one time and that just rang out to me.

“I love this allows us to go out and provide action. I’m fired up for it and all the guys I’ve talked to are fired up about it.”

Calipari joked that Few should receive a trip to Bermuda for bringing in the most coaches to the McLendon Leadership Initiative. Few cracked that he’d be fine with a new blender, but he credited Calipari for being “an unbelievable force” developing the MLI program.

The list of coaches involved includes Washington’s Mike Hopkins, Oregon State’s Wayne Tinkle (Ferris High grad), former WSU coach Tony Bennett (Virginia) and former Idaho coach Kermit Davis (Mississippi).

The coach-driven program goes beyond coaching jobs, Calipari said. It involves positions in every facet of an athletic department, from administration to facilities to video content and creation. Calipari has pledged to fund five MLI positions every year for six years. He said with 50 coaches involved it should create 70-75 positions for minority candidates.

Job postings at participating athletic departments will begin accepting applications Aug. 1, but a pre-application process is available at MinorityLeaders.org.

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