American University professor Dr. Ibram Kendi’s National Book Award-winning tome, entitled “Stamped From the Beginning,” traces the roots of racist ideas in America before its founding to the present day and African-American’s struggles to confront and survive them. This brilliant study by the Florida A&M University product has taken America by storm.
In similar ways, Cy Alexander’s new book entitled “Beyond the Backboard: My Unique HBCU Experience in the Shadows of Big-Time College Basketball” does the same in explaining Historically Black Colleges and Universities entry into and efforts to survive and compete in the daunting world of NCAA Division I college basketball.
Excelling in Div. I college basketball is not for the weak-hearted or the under-funded. It’s an environment flush with cash – billions, they say – and inhabited and dominated by those with the biggest endowments and most well-heeled boosters. HBCUs don’t have either.
Alexander, 64, a Winston-Salem, N. C. native, son of HBCU graduates and protégé of legendary basketball coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines, endured the rigors of big-time college hoops during a 39-year career that began with an 11-year stint as an assistant at Howard University.
In 1980, during his time at Howard, black colleges took the plunge deciding to compete on the highest levels of college athletics in Div. I. Alexander spent 26 of those years as a head coach at three Div. I HBCUs – South Carolina State University, Tennessee State University and North Carolina A&T State University – fighting the battles for relevance inside and outside the institutions and on and off the court.
Beyond the Backboard includes year-to-year and blow-by-blow accounts of his challenges and accomplishments competing inside and outside the Mid Eastern Athletic (MEAC) and the Ohio Valley (OVC) conferences. Legendary battles are captured of Howard against North Carolina A&T and head coach Don Corbett for MEAC supremacy, and with Coppin State and head coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell once Alexander took over at South Carolina State. A promising move to Tennessee State and his up-and-down sojourn at the Nashville, Tennessee school is like a pause before he comes full circle returning to his home state as the head man at A&T where he again finds victories and national acclaim.
Beyond the Backboard chronicles both his successes and failures, the highs and the lows. The six trips he and his teams earned to the NCAA Tournament battling the likes of Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville and Oklahoma in the Big Dance are described in sometimes excruciating detail. His own opportunities to escape the HBCU shadows and move into the limelight at much larger institutions are seen as gut-wrenching decisions sometimes met with disappointment and heartache but in the final analysis with firm resolve. The book is interspersed with personal triumphs and tragedies that shape him both as a coach and a man
and define his entry into and out of the profession.
A 26-year relationship with Nike where he rubbed shoulders with Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and a host of other luminaries is highlighted while his inclusion on ground-breaking NCAA committees and on the board of the governing body of college basketball, the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC), accentuates the prominent role this HBCU mentor played in the growth and development of the sport.
Beyond the Backboard takes you back in history to the personalities who laid the groundwork for HBCU athletic excellence and brings you forward to one, Cy Alexander, who has followed in that path.
North Carolina A&T Men’s Basketball Coach Cy Alexander sent ripples through the basketball world when he resigned from his post as the Division 1 head coach citing in a statement to press, “I have decided to step away from actively coaching to pursue other interest within athletics. I look forward to pursuing those interest here at North Carolina A&T State University … I have a strong love for broadcasting, and I think being able to sharpen my skills on the Aggie basketball broadcasts will assist me in pursuing broadcasting as my next career. My decision to step down was a difficult one, but the last three years of my life have been tumultuous with the passing of my wife and mother. Therefore, I believe this decision was in the best interest of me and my family.”
He went on to thank all the young men “I’ve coached here at North Carolina A&T State University for their commitment to the program as well as their respective families who entrusted those young men to my care,” he continued. “Secondly, I want to thank Chancellor Harold L. Martin and Athletics Director Earl Hilton for the opportunity they gave me to become the head coach at North Carolina A&T, and the opportunity they are giving me to pursue my second career. I also want to say thank you to my coaches, managers and every person who has been involved with North Carolina A&T men’s basketball during my tenure.”
Alexander also made coaching stops at Tennessee State (2003-09) and South Carolina State (1987-03). As S.C. State head coach, he won five MEAC tournament titles. His career also includes six 20-win seasons and 31 MEAC tournament wins, second all-time behind former Coppin State coach Ron “Fang” Mitchell. His six MEAC titles are second to only former N.C. A&T head coach Don Corbett, who had seven.
Click below to read a Q&A from Cy Alexander discussing his new book with “Beyond the Backboard: My Unique HBCU Experience In the Shadows of Big Time Basketball,” with RollingOut.com’s Yvette Caslin.
BEYOND THE BACKBOARD: My Unique HBCU Experience in the Shadows of
Big-Time College Basketball By CY ALEXANDER with Carl Lut Williams
Foreword by Roland Lazenby, author of “Michael Jordan: The Life”
For Information, Interviews, Appearances and Book Signings, Contact:
Both Paperback and Hardcover Available at cyalexander.com
$21.95 Paperback (reduced price)
$32.95 Hardcover (reduced price)
Also available at: Barnes & Nobles (barnesandnoble.com) and Amazon Books (amazon.com)
Here’s What People Are Saying About Cy Alexander
“I have the utmost respect for the manner in which Cy Alexander runs his
program. He is a top notch coach and I hope that great opportunities come
his way in the future.”
Mike Kryzyzewski, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Duke University
“Coach Alexander’s teams always demonstrate discipline and that has
reflected his teaching and motivational talents. One thing you know about Cy
Alexander teams, they are always prepared and he always gets the maximum
out of his players. That is what you would call a superb job in the profession
we call coaching.”
Dick Vitale, ESPN College Basketball Analyst
“I met Cy while he was coaching our younger son at Howard University and
later became closer to him while he was Head Basketball Coach at my alma
mater, North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. I followed the team,
at home and quite often, on the road. Cy was like a father to the players, a
family man who tried to develop the whole person. He always had something
to say, and he still does!”
The Honorable Henry E. Frye, Retired Chief Justice,
North Carolina Supreme Court
“Cy Alexander is a proven head coach and recruiter who knows how to win
championships. The fact that few people outside of South Carolina know about
this outstanding gentleman/coach proves that lack of television exposure can
obscure outstanding accomplishments. This man should be a great catch for
any program in the country.”
Terry Holland, Former Head Men’s Basketball Coach
and Athletics Director at the University of Virginia
“Coach Alexander doesn’t get much national attention, but he keeps the
Bulldogs competitive and has them in position to win the MEAC and go to the
NCAA tournament just about every year. He’s built a fine program and keeps
winning. There is no reason to think that it will stop anytime soon.”
“Cy Alexander is one of those rare warriors that come to the battlefield to
do battle every day. I met Cy when he was the assistant coach at Howard
University. Cy wasn’t just a coach but someone that I admired as a man. I knew
during our conversations that whenever Cy got a job as a head coach, I wanted
him on my team at Nike. We got him and I’m proud to say the nights spent
with Cy, his wife and family are some of the highlights of my life. We see his
accomplishments as a coach for over 39 years but what I am most impressed
with are his accomplishments as a human being.”
Howard White, Vice President, Brand Jordan
“Cy Alexander should be looked at as the next coach out of a lower major
conference to make a jump. But someone needs to give him a shot.”
Andy Katz, ESPN.com
“During my tenure at the Air Force Academy, I had the good fortune to meet
and get to know Cy Alexander. Cy is an exceptional teacher and coach having
coached against his teams and observed them playing on multiple occasions.
Cy sincerely loves the game and working with young people, and connects
with them easily. I have known Cy for over 30 years, during which time he has
displayed integrity, character, sound judgment, honesty, intelligence, and
thoroughness in all his actions.
Reggie Minton, Executive Director.
National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC)
“I couldn’t be more proud of my former classmate! To see him grow from player
to accomplished coach has been a great source of pride for me. And not just
any coach–a consistent winner, leader, mentor, and program builder. He’s one
of the brightest lights in the coaching industry and in college athletics. I’m
proud to call him friend.”
Bob Rathbun, Atlanta Hawks TV Play-by-Play
“A builder and game changer who made a real positive difference and brought
true integrity and mentorship to the programs, coaches and players he led.”
Joel Kocher, Former President, Dell Computer