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OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale says 'environment that is inclusive for all' is the goal

OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale and the Sooners open their season next Wednesday at home against Houston. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
OU women's basketball coach Sherri Coale and the Sooners open their season next Wednesday at home against Houston. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

NORMAN — This offseason was a learning experience for OU women’s basketball coach Sherri Coale.

She watched — and listened — as several of her former players posted on social media about their experiences in the program, alleging racial insensitivity or outright racism.

Coale spoke Wednesday about the lessons she took from those allegations.

“As a program, what we strive to do is create an environment that is healthy and instructional for all,” Coale said. “And when we have missed that point we want to go back and address that and try to do that better and try to learn from that as we move forward.

“We also want to celebrate the experiences of players who felt like their needs were met so it’s a continual learning environment over time and I think all of us, if we look realistically at ourselves, have not been anti-racist enough. We didn’t know what that was years ago.

“So it’s a continual evolution of seeing every individual player for who they are and the circumstance they come from and the culture that’s so important to them and celebrating that and wrapping our arms around them in an environment that is inclusive for all. That is the goal.”

The outcry started after Gioya Carter, who played for the Sooners from 2013-17, posted on Twitter following the OU football team’s march from their locker room to the campus’ South Oval in August, saying she wished she’d had a coach like Lincoln Riley.

“Instead, my four years there was filled with comments like, ‘You guys act like it happened to you. If y’all’s long braids hits one of my players in the face,’ as if the people in braids weren’t her players.”

Carter’s comments were soon joined by other former players, including T’Ona Edwards tweeting Coale had to be convinced to tweet about Black Lives Matter in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and other incidents that stirred renewed interest in social justice issues this spring and summer, and Jacqueline Jeffcoat tweeting that Coale had made racist comments after a visit to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation.

In a statement shortly after those comments were posted, Coale said hearing the “concerns” was “disheartening, because it is clear that I have unknowingly caused harm to people I care deeply about.”

Coale said Wednesday that she’d talked about the situation with her current players and recruits.

“Every kid who plays basketball at every program in the country has an experience that is singular to them because each individual brings with them whatever their feelings are, their insights are, their situation is, their background is,” Coale said. “Everybody’s different.”

Coale and the Sooners open their season next Wednesday at home against Houston.

OU’s roster figures to be thin this year, with just 10 players listed as of Wednesday — including one (Ana Llanusa) out for the season after recently undergoing surgery. Coale alluded to multiple players opting out for this season.

Two players — Chloe Bloom (Virginia Commonwealth) and Aspen Williston (South Dakota) — transferred this offseason. Though Coale didn’t mention which players had opted out, three others — Nydia Lampkin, Jessi Murcer and Ashlynn Dunbar — who had eligibility remaining are no longer listed on the roster.

Ryan Aber

Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The... Read more ›