photo by Jennifer Palumbo
Guess Who’s back, back again, Shady’s back, tell a friend. This time the resident shady journalist known as Pete Thamel is back with this profile of new Texas Coach Charlie Strong. Mixed in with some interesting tidbits is the part of the article highlighted above, in which Kentucky is lumped in with a group of schools where Strong interviewed in which it is insinuated he was not hired due to the fact that he is African American and his wife is white. This is an issue that has been brought up in the Charlie Strong story before, but Thamel goes the next step and mentions the schools that could be indicted for the charge.
I can’t speak to what happened at the others schools as I am not familiar with their hiring process. I also would be naive if I didn’t leave open the possibility that Strong’s race and interracial marriage could not have played some part in his lack of a hiring opportunity at some point in his career. However Thamel’s decision to lump Kentucky into the category of schools that didn’t hire Strong because of race is simply not fair. Strong interviewed for the job when Kentucky hired Rich Brooks and if you speak with anyone that was around at that point, they all agree that he had an awful interview. The knock on Strong always was that his communication skills were not great (an issue that has followed him to Texas and has led to some early criticism) and that he did not do well in an interview setting. Kentucky ended up not going with Strong, in part for this reason, and to suggest that they didn’t hire him because of race isn’t fair for a reporter to insinuate who was not part of the process.
But even if such an accusation could potentially have some merit in general, in has zero place with Kentucky. Why? Because just a few years later, Kentucky hired an African-American coach with a white wife for the exact same position. Joker Phillips was hired by Barnhart and while he did not have success, his race, nor that of his wife, was no obstacle in him getting the job. If Kentucky was against Strong because of his race or his interracial marriage, why would they hire Joker just a few years later? Does Thamel believe that UK’s administration and Athletic Director all of a sudden became more enlightened? Of course not. Kentucky had no problem hiring a black coach with a white wife, when Strong was first interviewed or a few years later. The fact that they hired the wrong one of the two is not a symbol of racism, but rather simply a poor hiring decision.
Thamel, as per usual, went for the cheap hit and the easy shot on a group of programs. My guess is that individuals at all of those programs would disagree with his assessment, and their points may be completely valid. But in the case of Kentucky, to insinuate that Charlie Strong wasn’t hired because of his race/marriage is objectively false. However as we have seen with Thamel over the years, writing incorrect/misleading articles is par for his journalistic course and showcases once again why when the Hall of Fame of Overrated sports writers is erected, Pete’s bust will be part of the first ballot class, likely inducted by a beautiful speech from Manti Teo’s girlfriend.