Brian Koonz: Strip club ad shows need for cultural reboot
DALLAS — One by one, the Final Four coaches sat in their chairs and stood on their soapboxes the other day at the American Airlines Center.
As media outlets from around the country grabbed every word as UConn coach Geno Auriemma and his peers worked the biggest bully pulpit in the land for women’s basketball.
One by one, the coaches leaned into the microphones, looked into the cameras and pushed hard for gender equality in the game they love.
“I’ve never had anything but women on my staff,” said Auriemma, who built the best program in college basketball history with that philosophy. “I hope they all want to be head coaches. I hope they move on and become great head coaches.
“But a lot of them at some point go, ‘I don’t like this business. I want to have, like, a normal life.’ What are you going to do? Make them stay in the business? It’s a function of how much we’ve done to elevate women in our society — not nearly enough.”
As the words and the wisdom lingered, it quickly became clear we need a cultural reboot in this country before men will really hear these important calls for change.
Up the stairs at the American Airlines Center, in a room called the Gentleman Jack Lounge when it’s not used for Final Four media dining, the strip club ad punches you in the face and soils your sensibilities.
Walk into the men’s room at the Gentleman Jack Lounge — with that call for unimpeded fairness still hanging in the air — and the first thing you see is a framed ad for The Men’s Club, a Dallas strip joint.
And it’s disgusting and inappropriate, not necessarily in that order.
There’s no place for strip club ads at a Final Four venue. The NCAA needs to do better if it’s ever going to be more than a cash-grabbing punchline.
The NCAA has no problem plastering its logo everywhere at the Final Four. It could take five minutes and pull down a bathroom sign that offends everything women’s athletics represents.
For Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, the mirror is much more honest. It reflects the kind of integrity that comes with hard work and the same coaching opportunities that are available to men.
“If athletic directors want more women in women’s basketball, maybe they have to look in the mirror and say, ‘All right, how can we make this happen?’ ” VanDerveer said. “I think it’s on their plate — it’s their plate basically.
“There are women. If you want women in your jobs, you have to look to hire them. Keep the pipeline going, too. You know, get more women in the pipeline.”
The pipeline cannot and must not be clogged with closed doors. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has already called for the league’s first female head coach.
He speaks the truth, popped from a can that has sat on the league’s shelf for a generation. Or longer.
“It’s just a matter of giving people opportunity. I think there are really qualified female coaches,” VanDerveer said. “I just think it’s just a matter of time. The same way we got maybe close to having a female president. It’s just a matter of time.”
For Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer, the best candidate for the job has always been the smartest candidate, the one with the best skills and the brightest upside.
Gender is a box you check on a government form, not a back-of-the-line card for a woman coach.
Last year, Schaefer hired Carly Thibault as one of his assistant coaches. This year, he reached the Final Four.
It is not a coincidence.
“Her knowledge of the game is really off the chart. Her preparation skills are really off the chart,” Schaefer said of Thibault, who grew up in East Lyme and graduated from Monmouth in 2013. “Her attention to detail, as my entire staff, those are things that were important to me.
“Her work ethic, her attention to detail, has really been pleasing for someone who is, quite frankly, as young as her ... but man, she is off the chart. She’s been a home run for me.”
There are other home runs out there for women coaches at the next level.
None of them hang on a wall in the bathroom at the Gentleman Jack Lounge.