Hurricane Hoopsters Reflect on Inauguration

The inauguration of President Barack Obama was an event seen throughout the country including on the campus of the University of Miami where a basketball coach and two of his players each experienced the historic moment in their own way.

For Head Coach Frank Haith, President Obama's inauguration had a lot of meaning because it opened the doors for the youth to become whatever they aspired. Haith said when he was growing up parents limited a child's aspirations.

"At that time, obviously growing up, your parents would never tell you that you could be whatever you want to be," Haith said. "You were told that if you wanted to be something, you wanted to be an athlete. You know ‘I want to be a professional ball player.' Now you can be anything you want to be."

When he was in college, Haith decided wanted to be a head basketball coach. At the time there were very few minority coaches. Miami's head man was often discouraged at the possibility of reaching his goal but eventually achieved it and is proud of the progress that has been made in that area of college athletics.

"I remember being in college and Bob Wade was the only African-American coach in the ACC and he didn't last very long at Maryland," Haith said. "I wanted to be a head coach and obviously there were a few guys like George Raveling, Nolan Richardson and John Thompson, who won a national championship when I was growing up. The numbers were definitely sparse. I didn't know if it could happen. At one point in my career I was discouraged. I had put an age limit on it. I said ‘by the time I'm 35 I'm going to be a head coach.' When that time came and went and I didn't, I just said ‘Okay I'll stay at Texas.' You could see in our league that we have seven African-American head coaches in our league and I think that's pretty remarkable."

Haith was not the only person in the Hurricanes basketball program that was affected by today's events. Jack McClinton and DeQuan Jones each had unique experiences on inauguration day.

"I was in the barber shop and when I went in there it was on so I was watching in the barber shop," McClinton said. "It was just great to see someone of that stature in that position that he's in. It's unbelievable."

While Miami's star guard was off-campus during the inauguration, Miami's star freshman sensation shared the experience with his fellow students at the school's official watch party.

"I was in school and the whole student body gathered around in a building and we all watched it," Jones said. "It just opened my eyes to a lot of things. It's significant to me because I never thought that I would be able to see it in my lifetime. I knew that with times changing the way they were that it would only be a matter of time but I wasn't sure if I would see it in my lifetime."

The 18 year-old Jones voted for the first time in this historic election but his teammate, Jack McClinton, had a little trouble getting his vote in.

"Something happened with my vote," McClinton said. "I filled out my ballot but I put my address for the BUC and they sent it back. I voted in my heart though."

Even though his vote did not get counted, McClinton still felt powerful emotions while watching President Obama's inauguration.

"It felt great," McClinton said. "I couldn't believe it while I was watching it. I never have been a guy that looked at politics but just looking at that stuff really opens your eyes to a lot of different things and shows you that you can do anything that you put your mind to."

Jones also experienced strong feelings as he watched the first African-American President of the United States enter into office.

"Words can't really describe it," Jones said. "It was great and I feel privileged because I have smaller relatives and for them to see it growing up, it just shows that they can be whatever they want to be."

For McClinton, like so many others around the world, today's inauguration was an unforgettable moment.

"It's one of those days you're not ever going to forget," McClinton said. "You would have never thought you would see this, especially in our lifetime. If I was in the barber shop or the gym or where ever, it's going to stick in my head forever."

The younger Jones discussed today's events with his mother and feels his upbringing has given him an extra special appreciation for the historical significance of President Obama's election to the Presidency.

"I spoke to my mom about it," Jones said. "Growing up in my household, my mom is very Afro-centric, I was always learning about Black history. Sometimes she would quiz me on it or we would be somewhere and she would ask me ‘Do you know the significance of Rosa Parks?' Just growing up in that household, I feel like I have a different appreciation of it than most."

Coach Haith believes this historic occasion should be used as an example to the youth to work towards their goals no matter how lofty.

"There's no question it is pretty historic," Haith said. "What I've used this for is to teach our kids, our players and my family, my kids, the significance of the day in terms of just teaching them that you can accomplish whatever you want to accomplish in life."

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