Last week, John Calipari launched the McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative (MLI) with the McLendon Foundation to create access and opportunities for minorities in college athletics administration. Not surprisingly, the MLI is already off to a fast start. Today, Calipari endowed an MLI Future Leader position at North Carolina Central University where John McLendon coached from 1941–52. NCCU Head Men’s Basketball Coach and CIAA Hall of Fame inductee LeVelle Moton will serve as an Ambassador, providing mentorship to the campus’s Future Leader.
“North Carolina Central University is where Coach McLendon got his first opportunity at the collegiate level,” Calipari said. “I’m grateful to be able to honor his legacy by helping provide that same opportunity to a Future Leader on NCCU’s campus.”
“Coach Cal and I have been good friends for years. Not only is he a man of integrity, but a man of action,” said Moton. “I’m grateful for his friendship and his quest to provoke necessary change while continuing the legacy of John McLendon.”
McLendon was the first African American basketball coach at a predominantly white institution and in any professional sport. During his 12 years at North Carolina Central, he led the Eagles to eight CIAA championships and helped organize “The Secret Game” vs. Duke University, which is regarded as the first college basketball game where black and white players competed on the same court.
“What John McLendon stood for, and for our fans, he was like the first guy to two-platoon two teams,” Calipari said last week. “He was like the first. And you’re talking about the first African-(American basketball coach at a primarily European-American university). Well, he studied under James Naismith. (He was) The first African-American coach to be at a predominantly white school, won national titles at Tennessee State, was the administrator, I believe at Kentucky State, but he’s been known–he brought in fast-break basketball. Dean Smith got the four-corner offense from him. He was a pioneer in this and a true gentleman that, to be able to house this there is huge.”
For more information about the McLendon Minority Leadership Initiative, including a pre-application for interested and qualified individuals, visit MinorityLeaders.org.