Local coaches appreciate history

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Larry Owens says it “means a lot to me personally.”

Duane Breaux calls it “something exciting.” And Keith Minor says it has brought him “a lot of pride.”

When Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy leads his team onto the field against Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears in Miami on Sunday, the pair will simultaneously become the first black head coaches to coach in a Super Bowl. And the magnitude of the occasion has not been lost on the black football coaching community in the Bay Area.

“I think there’s always a question of whether you can lead and associate with people outside your race,” said Owens, who is black and has been the coach at the College of San Mateo for 17 years. “I’m proud to see these two men have risen above that. It’s really not about race. It’s about whether you can do the job."

Dungy began his coaching career at the University of Minnesota in 1980 after spending three years as safety in the NFL. He then waited 16 years for an opportunity to become a head coach, finally landing the top job in Tampa Bay in 1996, where he gave Smith his first NFL assistant job.

Kansas City’s Herman Edwards and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin are other current NFL head coaches who worked under Dungy for the Buccaneers.

“As a coach, it’s an interesting story for me,” said Minor, who finished his fourth season at Balboa last fall. “You learn that all coaches come from family trees and I knew coach Smith had worked under coach Dungy. It just shows the kind of leader coach Dungy is.”

Dungy and Smith are two of just six black coaches to hold one of the NFL’s 32 head-coaching jobs, a low ratio considering 67 percent of the league’s players are black (according to Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society).

In San Francisco’s Academic Athletic Association four of the eight programs are led by black coaches, including Breaux (the only coach in Burton’s five-year history).

St. Ignatius’ Steve Bluford is the only black head coach in the seven-team West Catholic Athletic League, while there are no black head coaches in the 16-team Peninsula Athletic League.

“This [Dungy-Smith matchup] is something exciting, because I think it’s silently said that African-Americans play, but don’t coach,” Breaux said. “This shows we’re capable of running a team.”

Galileo’s Kevin Adams (who has coached the Lions for 14 years and is the AAA’s longest-tenured head coach) and Mission’s Carl Sullivan attached importance on not only the ethnicity, but also the work ethic of the Dungy and Smith.

“It’s been tough out there for African-American coaches,” Adams said. “And I think this is a really good thing. But I look at it more as two guys who have paid their dues and deserved the chance they’ve gotten.”

And Minor said the story could serve as inspiration to The City’s high school students.

“It’s an important story right now, especially considering all the violence going on around here,” Minor said. “It shows kids there’s an alternative to what they see going on in the streets.”

melliser@examiner.com

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