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Brandeis basketball program continues to struggle with race issues

Jimmy Myers
Brandeis basketball program continues to struggle with race issues
Brian Meehan speaks to a player. PHOTO: BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY

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When you visit the campus of Brandeis University these days, you feel the tension among current students when discussing the school’s basketball programs.

Due to recent developments that took far too long to come to light, the university bearing the name of one of this country’s most extraordinary legal minds is reeling under reports of scandalous behavior by varsity basketball coaches and the administrators who are supposed to be governing them.

What would Justice Louis Brandeis say about the reprehensible treatment of young male and female basketball players who have represented the school over the last decade?

It took a player revolt by the women’s basketball squad members to force longtime head coach Carol Simon to recently “retire” after more than 30 years — and over 400 victories — at the helm. Simon was pushed to the door following published reports of her racist and dictatorial practices over the past two decades. Reports of her toxic leadership had arisen six years before, when women on the basketball team reported problems.

She was accused of constantly using stereotypes of Black male and female players and showing no sympathy for injured players. At first, the school did find that Simon had violated Brandeis’ standards of behavior in a report by the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity. A second report was issued exonerating the coach from violating Brandeis policies. However, Simon was put on a year-long administrative leave.

Brandeis women’s basketball team huddles up. PHOTO: COURTESY CECI XILEI CHEN, THE BRANDEIS JUSTICE

Assistant coach Jill Latanowich took over the team in 2023. When Simon was reinstated by the school this year, the whole team wrote a letter to Brandeis officials explaining that they would not play for the coach and would sit out the entire season.

Unlike men’s head basketball coach Brian Meehan — fired in April 2018 after similar charges of mismanagement and player abuse — Simon was allowed a graceful exit from the program she destroyed. Meehan, a coach who had a successful run in the early 2000s, struggled to maintain the productive efforts at the Waltham school, and according to a documented report, told one of his Black players that if he didn’t perform better, “I’ll ship you back to Africa.”

After more incidents, the university conducted an internal investigation and upon completion, issued a statement regarding Meehan: “In light of the new complaint, we began a thorough examination and review of the prior incidents. As a result of this complaint and that review, the coach’s employment with Brandeis has now been terminated.”

The report detailed a problem of racism across the campus that leaves many students of color feeling alienated and underrepresented at the university.

The coaches were not alone in their deplorable behavior. Individuals in the highest positions of authority at Brandeis University supported and even defended them. There should be other department heads leaving along with Simon and Meehan.

Recent conversation with insiders who possess detailed knowledge of what’s going on within the Brandeis Judges roundball program suggest that the men’s and women’s programs have been in chaos for a long time.

As one insider states, “Brandeis is a rich university with a lot of wealthy, powerful people pulling the strings. They pick the people they want to conduct their business and don’t give a damn about their behavior as long as their teams win games or at least put on a competitive show.”

Over his coaching tenure, Meehan passed on several top recruits who could have lifted the program. ”There was always some funky excuse for turning them down. This combination of Black and white players could have turned this into a winning basketball program overnight,” said one source. “And when I asked why they were not admitted, there was always some kind of lame excuse given to me.”

The problem with that thinking is that Brandeis has a losing record in both the men’s and women’s basketball programs over the last several years. So why did it take so long to investigate the program, see its flaws and do something to change the scenario?

It would help if we could ask those questions to those who run Brandeis University and have been principal conspirators in this situation. But they have run for cover, refusing to speak with the media.

I would submit that this would not have pleased Louis Dembitz Brandeis, who was renowned for “fighting for the rights of people.”

Brandeis basketball, Brandeis University, Sports