Mack Brown is not afraid to talk about race or privilege

Mack Brown, head football coach at UNC, opens up about growing up in the south (and what his parents did when they saw racist behavior), his growth when he started to realize his privilege, the patches the football team put on their jerseys in 2020, and why he’s not afraid to talk about race.

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Voiceover: Welcome to If You Only Knew, brought to you by The Diversity Movement, where Dr Debby Stroman talks race and diversity in sports with some of the most influential leaders at the intersection of athletics and racial equity.

Today’s guest is Mack Brown, head football coach at UNC. Today Coach Brown (or Coach Mack?) opens up about growing up in the south and what his parents did when they saw racism, his growth when he started to realize his privilege, the patches the football team put on their jerseys, and why he’s not afraid to talk about race. 

Here’s your host, UNC professor, entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, and advocate, Dr Debby Stroman.

Dr Debby Stroman:  If You Only Knew with Dr. Debby Stroman. I’m excited today. I have the opportunity to spend some time with coach Mack Brown. He is no doubt a legend to everybody in the Tarheel nation, and certainly he’s done some incredible things that make even his rivals have to respect him. So thank you for being here, coach.

Mack Brown:  Thank you, Dr. Stroman. I’m excited about our next hour.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Absolutely. So let’s start off. Tell me where it all started. Like where did you grow up? What brought you to sports at a young age?

Mack Brown:  Debbie, I was so lucky. I was raised in a small town in Tennessee, Cookeville, Tennessee. My grandfather was the love of my life.

He was the local high school football coach that the stadium now is named after he was the winningest high school football coach in middle Tennessee history at that time. And he became the superintendent of schools. He ran all the recreation programs in in the county. So I just worked for him.

I loved him. He taught me how to fish. My dad wouldn’t let me hunt. Cause each Friday I’d shoot somebody. I think so I never got the hunt, but I ran all the little league and Babe Ruth league baseball programs and I worked on all the fields and then my granddad and I would go down and stay at the little trailer at  the lake and we’d fish at night.

We’d fish the next morning go back to work. And he actually integrated the schools in our community when I was really, really young. So I was so fortunate with race, that race was not an issue in my life. And he, I realized now he took a lot of criticism.  But I remember going with little league baseball team and my dad was driving and we stopped and dad walked in and I remembered the signs, the, the white bathrooms and the colored bathrooms.

And dad walked back out and we were all really hungry and I was probably 10 or something. And dad said, we’re not going to eat here. And we left. So a couple of years later, I said, why didn’t we eat there? And he said, they wouldn’t let the kids of color eat. He said, I said, well, why didn’t you bring some stuff out?

He said, I wasn’t going to eat those people’s food. So I thought I was really lucky that I was taught at a very young age, that people are people and the color of your skin shouldn’t matter. So I was really, really blessed and I want to be a great grandfather to my grandkids because my granddad was so good to me.

So that’s one of my goals here. I’ve got six grandkids. Sally and I have six grandkids and I love them and I want them to look back at their granddad. Like I looked at mine.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Well, I don’t even have to ask you then about role models because clearly your granddad is very, very special and we’re connected besides being Tarheels but also through your daughter who I just adore who is doing who’s following in your footsteps and being there for racial justice.

So I’m very, very blessed to know her. So I know the DNA is running through the family for sure.

Mack Brown:  Well, Barbara is so sweet and she’s a, I’m so proud of her too. She’s, creating a lot of change and helping with change at the University of Virginia. And she’s strong. She’s tough.  And, and I love her so much, but I’m very, very proud of her.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Now baseball. So. Were you the type of athlete that was more of the, a quiet assassin, like Barry Sanders or more of the big talker, like Deion Sanders. Now both athletes get the job done, but you as an athlete, what type of personality did you have in sports?

Mack Brown:  Doc, I’ve never been a talker. That’s not my deal.  My granddad taught me to show class at all times to be respect, to be humble and be respectful, of of our opponents. So I’ve gotten some criticism, some and coaching because everybody says he’s a player’s coach. Cause he’s too nice. I don’t think you can be too nice as long as you’re disciplined. And as long as you’re honest and as long as you’re direct and, and you’re consistent with who you are.

So, my motto is a player and now it’s kind of, I didn’t know it at that time, but now I know who I am and what I want. I want to be fair to everybody. I want to be consistent. I want you to know who I am every day that you talked to me and I want to always do what I know is the right thing to do. And those are three principles that we teach to our players every day.

Be fair. Wait, we don’t have racial issues. If we’re fair, that’s fair. But come on, man. Just do what’s right. And do it every day. Don’t get up one day and be a screamer. And the next day you’re really quiet and everybody’s got a wonder who you are and what you are be you and be consistent. And then if we always do what’s right then  you can sleep really well at night.

You don’t have to worry about whether you did something good or bad or what you told people. Sometimes people, Debby think I’m too direct, but, but it’s because I, I feel like I should tell the truth. And if you tell the truth upfront and people get upset, that’s better than lying to them. And then four years later, they know you’re a liar, but  I’d rather tell people exactly what I think.

And then I will listen. I can learn if I’m wrong and I’m, I love to listen. I love to learn, but if you asked me my opinion on something and I’ve thought about it and I’ve researched it and I have an opinion, I’m going to give it to you. If not, I’m going to say doc, I really don’t know enough about that. I’m not there yet.  Let me give me some time so I can look at it, but I’m not going to talk about things that I don’t understand.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Well, you just dropped so many pearls of wisdom in that comment, everything from showing up and being authentic. And I think, for myself, I’ll speak for myself as I’ve aged, I’ve become even more grounded in authenticity because we’ve seen so much, we’ve heard so much.  As we say, this isn’t our first rodeo. And so your point around directness it, just bring it, just say how you feel.  It’s better because you can create so much confusion and distrust if you don’t.

So I love what you said. And then also you brought up accountability. If a person is inconsistent, If you’re in a family, if you’re in a community, you should have the ability to call that person, call that person in and not call them out, but call them in. As to yesterday, you did this today, you doing that? What are you going to do tomorrow? So, wow. I mean, just hit so many important points in life, life lessons.

Mack Brown:  Thank you, Debbie. I when Sally my wife and I got married, we had both gone through divorce and it was really hard and tough and I was  very direct. And she said after six months, you’re a little direct for me.

I’m not sure I get taken back. And I said, you know, I love you very much. And I will never ever say anything to hurt your feelings. So as long as you know that, listen to what I say, don’t listen to how I said, she said, well, you’re the head coach all day. You’re not the head coach when you come home. And I said, I got it, but I am me.

And if you asked me my opinion, I would think that you would appreciate me giving it to you. If you want me to just say something soft and sweet every time and not tell you what I think, then we can do that too. And I pretty much do that with the team team and the staff. I love all you all, some of you are better players than others. Some of you are probably better coaches than others. Some of you have things that you’re, you’re stronger in than in certain areas than others, but I’m going to tell you exactly what I think. So don’t get your feelings hurt. I’m telling you to help you. I’m not telling you to embarrass you. I don’t enjoy getting up every morning and telling people they’re not doing a good job.

And I said, I’ll tell you, these are things that I like that you’re doing. These are things I’m concerned about, and I want them fixed and I want them to fix now. And that’s kind of the way we run our whole place. Over here.

Dr Debby Stroman:  You got me fired up. I’m ready to put on some pads and find some eligibility.

Mack Brown:  The players laugh. And when I give them some hard information, they’ll just all say in unison facts, he just gives us facts.

Dr Debby Stroman:  That’s the truth teller..

Mack Brown:  Opinion. One thing, facts are another thing.

Dr Debby Stroman:  It looks like you’ve got the lingo down for sure. I love it. Now I know today’s athletes are often allowed to show emotion and dance on the sidelines is that I know it’s not your preference, but how do you manage that as a head coach?

Mack Brown:  I think the most important thing doc for me is that they have fun.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Good.

Mack Brown:  But they do it within a professional way and a classy way because I do not want them to be hurt when they get out of here. In our bubble, they live one life, what I’ve learned, and I’ve really learned through the social injustice issues we’ve seen even over the last year and a half or two here that,  it made me rethink things for years that in our bubble, their lives are different.

Our kids’ lives are different black and white. Then when they leave our bubble, because we don’t have racism in our bubble, but I made the awful mistake of thinking for years that we don’t have racism. Well, we do when they leave our bubble. And that’s the hard thing. I never thought I heard my friends say. Yeah, I don’t want my son to drive because he’s black and that said, come on, man. You know, maybe every now and then, but that’s not, that’s not right. And then we see some despicable things that have happened for the last year. So it’s real out there. So what I’ve told our guys is I want you to have a voice, but I want it to be through conversation.

And I want it to be well-thought out intelligent conversation that people will listen and respect you. Don’t just scream all the time. If you get mad and scream all the time, nobody’s going to listen. They’re just going to say, hi, you’re black. You’re, you’re just angry. You, you don’t really understand.  And that what I’ve learned is I don’t understand.

There’s a lot of stuff I don’t understand and I’m learning, but, what I’ve told them is, let me help you with the voice. If you feel like you have pressure to speak for change, but you’re afraid to. And I got that. I never thought of a, an assistant coach,  black or white, but especially of color, that would be afraid to have an opinion, never thought of that until this year.

And I, and it’s stupid of me not to have thought of it, but I never thought of it because I never looked at a person’s color when I was trying to make a decision on whether they were right or not. And then we’ve got players that say, coach, I’m not LeBron James man. You know, he didn’t say what he want, but I’m worried about getting a job.

I’m worried about my NFL draft. So what I’ve learned is we all need to talk. We all need to listen and learn. We need to embrace differences because that we can learn more from embracing differences and by doing that, then we can have good conversation because we’ve researched it. And we’re intelligent about it.

Let’s don’t scream. Let’s don’t shout. I don’t like burning businesses of innocent people who had nothing to do with the racism. I don’t like the abuse that happens in protest, where police are beating honest people who have an opinion. So we, we’ve got to rethink this and let’s talk, let’s learn, let’s have conversation, let’s work for proper change.

Let’s just, don’t scream at each other and yell at each other because we don’t agree with an opinion somebody has, or or, and I, still, I get naive to a point that I think, why are we talking about color in 2021? I mean, why are we even talking about it? Come on, man. I thought when president Obama became president, we’d be through with that.

I thought we were actually through, I went to a school in Houston, the large majority minority and the kids. I’ve never seen happier kids. They all thought they could be President the next morning. And I thought, how cool and then we have Hillary running and I thought, yeah, we, women can be president people of color can be president we’re okay. Let’s move on. Let’s just have our world now. And let’s embrace everybody in it. And whether we agree or not, it’s okay. You know, you can agree to disagree, but don’t scream. Don’t fight.

Dr Debby Stroman:  I’ll tell you that is the trickery of a very complex  that’s what structural racism does. It makes us think that we can put our guards down.

But there are people out there. And clearly, you know, the FBI has done the reports that white supremacists have infiltrated the police, the military. And of course they’re in all the other systems, but when we believe that we can trust and hold hands and kumbaya and work on racial justice and policy and all the things that are necessary to have a healed, healthy country.

Then here comes a racism. So it’s almost like we have to keep, well, not almost like we have to keep our eyes on the focus and for me, as much as I do training and skills work and strategy and tactics, to me, it’s heart work coach. This is heart work. This is about love. Bottom line. I’m not trying to get preachy or anything like that, but I believe ultimately it’s about connecting with one another as humans because the human genome project said we’re 99.9 8% alike.. Where’s the love?

Mack Brown:  No question. What I think we’ve got to do doc, is really work to change those that are evil, that have infiltrated different areas. I’ve talked, there’s some people of color who hate white people and they’re angry and that’s going to be hard to change. There’s some people that are white, white supremacist, white in general, that I’ve never eaten lunch with a black person.

They’ve never had them in her house. They don’t, they don’t even know. Same thing with some of the black people that don’t like white people. I don’t like them in either case. They don’t even know them.

Dr Debby Stroman:  That’s right.

Mack Brown:  I know they don’t understand. When I first got to Texas, the last all white national championship football team was at Texas in 1971. All the older black communities in the state of Texas were angry and didn’t want their sons to come because I couldn’t get in. So I why would I want my grandson to come. Why would I want my son to come? And we had to go through a process then of talking about let’s start over. Let’s make sure that we’re looking at what’s best instead of what’s in the past.

Dr Debby Stroman:  And what’s powerful is that, that wasn’t that long ago.

Mack Brown:  No And I, I was fortunate that I went to Vanderbilt and one of the first black athlete in, the SEC was Perry Wallace, and he was a basketball player. And I watched him, he was two years older than me. And then we had three African-American football players on our team.

Never thought about it. Never thought about Perry, people slurring him from the stance, never thought about it. Never thought about the three kids on our team that were of color. What they must have gone through just because they were teammates. That’s right. I often thought I probably should call Perry and say, you know, I’m really sorry.

I didn’t think about you having to do things and go through things different from me. So   I talked to our team about the sixties.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Good.

Mack Brown:  I remember Mr. Meredith going to Ole Miss. I was a kid and I watched it.

I remember the walk at Selma and how awful I remember the rights. I remember the burning and the protest and the beatings and, and I thought we were through that and I really did. And to see the protest this year, I said that this is just revisiting our history and how we’re fixed and we got to fix it.

Yeah. And maybe now we’re smarter. We’ve got more voice. It’s time to fix it. We can’t have this happen in another 30 years. And I do think that  for all of us who think, ah a couple of people lost their lives. We’re seeing more now because of video. That’s right. There’s a lot of people that have been harmed that nobody ever knew about.

And now it’s coming to surface because thing, goodness. We’ve got police video of everything that happens now. So we’re aware and it needs to change.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Wow. Well, thank you for relaying that about your experience at Vanderbilt. I was interviewed recently and it got some publicity and one of my teammates called me from way back when we played together at Virginia in the late seventies, early eighties. And she said, I had no idea that this was going on. I was the first black Female scholarship athlete at Virginia. And you might not know this, but I was the first black assisting coach. Well, no first black female coach at Carolina. When I coach with Jennifer Allie. And when you’re going through it, you don’t notice anything, but then later on in life, you can reflect. You can reflect

Mack Brown:  And sports is different.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Yes. It’s a cushion. It’s an installation because you mentioned a bubble. That’s very true.

Mack Brown:  If the world was run like a locker room, our world would be good.  Cause people don’t look at color. You don’t even think about it. People hugging and kissing and brag on and yell at, but it’s not about color. It’s about personalities. It’s about what things should be. And that’s why I love sports so much.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Well, the inside the locker room of sport business world, that’s where it’s a system and that’s where we have to draw attention. But tell me about your team this year with the patch. How did that come about? I know that’s created a great buzz with the Tarheel nation. I think it’s awesome. Tell me about the roots of that.

Mack Brown:  Debby, when we when COVID hits and our world has changed completely, we can’t even see each other. We can’t hug each other. Kids are all home. Coaches are gone. We can’t have staff meetings except for zoom.

And I’ve learned that when you do a, a mass meeting with Zoom, There’s no emotion. It is so flat. I mean, it’s so weird and they’re giving you a thumbs up or a  you can’t see anything. So, in fact, Barbara called me and said, listen, dad, you’re going to hear about this thing called Zoom when the pandemic hit.

And I said, what you talking about sweetie and she said, we’re, we’re going to go class on Zoom. You’re going to have to do your meetings on Zoom. So I said, well, teach me how to do it. And so Barbara, Barbara daughter, Barbara. And I told her, I wish I’d had stock in Zoom

Dr Debby Stroman:  exactly

Mack Brown:  So then all of a sudden things start coming up that are happening in our lives with race. And a lot of our guys  haven’t seen this stuff before and it’s it’s there. It’s real. And I think the, you know, the George Floyd stuff was so awful and we all saw it. We saw it repeatedly. And even in the trial, I was told, I tell our team, some of them shouldn’t watch it because it’s really emotionally hard.

And it’s  a mental strain. So be careful when you watch it. So, and maybe it’s cowardly of me. I didn’t watch it. I didn’t think I could, I didn’t want to see somebody die with a guy’s knee on his neck. I just, sorry, I couldn’t do it.

Dr Debby Stroman:  No, self-care self-care

Mack Brown:  one day and tried and I turned it off. I just couldn’t do it. So we really sat down and we started dialogue our staff. I had two staff members that said one white, one black best friends room office right next to each other. Didn’t speak for three days. So I hear that I’m thinking, Ooh, that’s tough. And then I feel the strain on our, our country and our world.

And I’m watching protests like everybody else. So, so we pulled everybody together in the staff room and I said, okay, what’s what’s this deal? And white guy said, I don’t know what to say. It’s awful. And I can’t walk in his office. I just, I feel bad. I’m white, a white man killed a black man. And I don’t know what to say.

And the coach of color said, you know, same here. I know it’s uncomfortable. I don’t know what to say. So I said, why don’t we say what we think, why don’t you walk in and say, how bad is this? This is awful. I feel so bad. You’re not the white man. You’re the, you’re the man. You’re the person talking about somebody who got killed and how awful it is.

And then we started talking about the N word and we started talking about white on our, in our world, the white kids and the white coaches are the minority. How much pressure is there on the minority? How are you supposed to act? And then we ask everybody if, a white player is singing a song in the N word comes up.

Does that make you mad as a black person? They said, absolutely. And, but as a black player, I can sing the song and the word comes up. So that’s really confusing. So why is it not a song? Well, that word’s awful. Why is it awful for the white player, but not the black player? So our team is so good Debby.. They decided not to use the word. They threw it out. We don’t use it in the locker room. We don’t use it in any song because it’s, it’s a word that divides people.

Dr Debby Stroman:  And I like what you said, our team decided.

Mack Brown:  Oh, we had a vote..  We had a full discussion on just the N word and where it fits. And then we started into the protests, the summer with the NBA protests, the hockey leagues, protesting baseballs, protesting w MBA.

And, and so I told the guys don’t start meeting without me. Let’s talk. Okay. You want to miss practice? You want to, you want to protest? What do you want? Let’s talk. And let’s figure out what we’ll want to do.  And I said, the NCAA is allowing us to have a patch this year for something, if you want it like the NBA.

So let’s, let’s talk about it. And I said, we have a leadership committee of about 23 kids that the team chooses. And I said, take it to the leadership committee. And then you all talked to the team and come back to me with ideas.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Now this leadership team is different from captains.

Mack Brown:  Oh yeah. Oh, there’s 23 of them.

You can have about four captains. We do game captains and then the players choose the captains at the end of the year, based on what they did during the year. So after that,  we said the NCAA also is allowing you to put the name of any, anything you want, basically, as long as it’s within class on the back of your Jersey for games.

So they came back and Tamon Fox is one of our players is a really great artists. And we told him to come up with a patch and leadership committee. And so he came up with an unbelievable patch and we showed it to the team and we voted and they all said a hundred percent. So that was for every game.

And then we said, what about the name on the back of the jerseys? We’d love to do it for Notre Dame. Cause that’s where we’ll have the most exposure. I said, that’s fine. I’ll approve it through the administration, but that’s what you want. That’s what we’ll do. And then I said  put a well thought message on the back of your jersey.

Don’t just throw something out there. And don’t do something, LeBron did do something that’s important to you. One young guy put a Bible verse on the back. Some people wouldn’t have liked that. One young guy had a dad that he lost two years ago. He put his dad’s name on the back. I tuned up and he said, is that okay?

I said, sure. It’s okay. And then there were some, some things about, the injustice that we’d seen. Some people got angry. But, you know what it was a way for our guys to share their feelings publicly without getting in trouble, because it was a team message. The patch was a team message and that’s  white, that’s Hispanic, that’s black.

It was a team message about change.  It was not an individual message. And we found that the, the individual messages should probably come from me. Because I don’t care if people get mad at me or not.  I’m in my last job, so I’m good.

So, so let me do it and let me make those decisions. And to people’s credit, I got a couple of bad emails, but nothing at all like some people would have thought. We weren’t trying to be disruptive, but we were trying to listen and learn and help understand that we need some things to change.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Well, I appreciate how that came about. I appreciate your courage, your boldness. I think much of the way that we’re not moving towards love is because of fear. And people have this imaginary boogeyman out there that keeps them from taking action. And so you said I’m going to do this, not only because of my experience, my clout, my position, all of that.

Because it’s the right thing to do. You didn’t care about emails that might come in hate mail, all of that, but there are some people in particular, some white people in leadership who feel that there’s this imaginary boogeyman out there that prevents them to take that very important leadership step.

And so, again, I salute you. I know there’s language out there. That’s called ally. I don’t like ally because that just tends to imply that you’re working behind or beside. I like accomplice,. I like co-conspirator I like ally hyphen leader. And certainly that is definitely what you are. I mean, you are leading from the front, so I want to make sure I say that to you.

So I appreciate it.

Mack Brown:  Thank you doctor.  It’s amazing to me and the word fear, it fits so well. We’re afraid to talk about race. I’m not afraid to talk about anything because I learned and if I’m wrong. And I’m 69 I’m.  I wanna learn, I wanna learn, I didn’t realize that  when people were just talking about different things about white privilege, I thought it was because I was white. I have money and I get to do about what I want. I didn’t realize it was white.  So again, the kids laughed at me and I said, Hey, that’s what we’re doing. That’s why this works help me. I learned something I can learn more all the time and you learn, we, we, I even learned in my five years off, you can learn from losing.

You don’t have to be depressed and beat yourself up, learn from it. Cause you don’t like it and you won’t do it again. So all of the despicable things that happen, we have to learn from it, how to make sure it doesn’t happen again. And I think that’s where I want our team to help make change.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Yeah. Well, there’s a saying out there when, when you’re paid to be, stupid when they give you bread and water to be stupid, you learn to despise instruction. So I think it’s wonderful that just like you, being a lifelong learner because each and every day we can learn from one another. We can learn from the research.

And I’m very, very grateful that so much more research is coming into the space and we’re lifting up people who’ve been working on this for decades. So we’re nearing the end. And I want to ask you about a magic wand. If I were to give you a magic wand and you could do anything with that magic wand to help change, improve advance blacks in sports, whether that’s mental, physical economics, what would you do with your magic wand?

Mack Brown:  I would number one, I would take all of the issues with race away.  I like that people have pride in who they are and where they’re from. So when I say a race race, I don’t mean that we don’t we’re, we’re not proud of our heritage. I don’t ever want that to go away. I want the day to day of who gets jobs, get the best person, get the job.

That’s my magic wand. People we’ll say, well, you have a lot of coaches of color on your staff. I said, yeah, but all of them are really good coaches. I didn’t go say I’m going to hire black coaches because I need black coaches. I’m going to hire the best coach. But , I do want a staff that reflects the diversity of our team.

That’s really important for me. And I do want ladies around because all these guys have mothers and grandmothers, and it’s important that, that when they’re here, they still have that support staff. So we built our program on four principles and number one is communication. So magic wand would say, let’s learn to talk and not be so sensitive and angry.

I will not talk to somebody that, that doesn’t even know what they don’t know.  Because they won’t listen and they want to argue before they even start talking and I’m not wasting air. I’m not wasting my life anymore with that. I hate it. But those boxes, you just checked and say that person’s not interested in learning.

They’re interested in talking, so that’s not, not my deal. So let’s learn to talk. And young guys don’t talk and I’m around young guys all the time. And Barbara, when she was growing up, you asked Barbara, what are you going to do today? Oh, I get up and I’m doing this and I’m eating this for breakfast and I’m doing my hair and I’m doing my nails. I’m done. You asked the sons, what do you do when you get up? I don’t know.

Dr Debby Stroman:  You are spot on, you’re spot on this.

Mack Brown:  So I’ve got, get young guys to talk and I’ve got to listen. So it’s really important that I get our assistant coaches to tell me what they think. I don’t want yes. People around me. I want people with opinions. Well thought out smart people with opinions so I can learn. The second thing is when you learn to communicate that magic one would go to trust and respect because if we have trust and respect each other, then we’re not angry and screaming again, we’re talking because I respect your opinion. So I want to hear.

I trust that I can tell you something. And if I ask you not to tell it, you’re not going to go tell that I used to tell our children, Debby, if you told somebody something and if they told it, you’d go to prison for the rest of your life, how many people could you tell, how many people do you trust enough that you could put yourself in prison if they told it and you’d tell it.

And I said more than five. And they’d say, no, I don’t even know five and even some in  family, you can’t even try. So that makes it even tougher.  So communication, trust and respect. And then in 2009 then in the summer I went to Iraq. I went to Ramstead the hospital in Germany. And saw our guys and gals that had gotten shot and lost an, that disfigured face and lost a leg.

And those people were so unbelievable as kids were saying, yeah, I got to get back, coach. I got to get back with my, with my group. You know, I let them down thinking, oh my gosh, I’ve done my commitment. So then I go to the front lines and I’m with general Odin arrow and he’s in charge of a rack at that time.

And I said, do you teach leadership or do you recruit leadership? And he said, I’ll coach you teach it. That’s why we have academies. No it’s the best leader on your team might be the most disruptive person you’ve got and they may lead people. So we need to get people in positions of authority that are great leaders, and we need to teach other people to lead.

So we have more leaders and strength  and some of the things we’ve talked about on this podcast aren’t happening anymore because the people in charge get it. And they’re doing what’s right. They’re doing I, I don’t even like the word politics. I don’t like that we’ve got, I’ve never been a Democrat or Republican cause coaches can’t make half of them mad, but I always thought let’s do what’s right.

Let’s don’t do what our party says to do. Let’s do what’s best for the people. That’s our government. This is not complicated.  But then I also asked him, why did these young people stay over here? The average age is 19 years old. They’re getting shot at the average salary is $24,000 a year and they’re leaving their wives and husbands and kids at home.

So why do they stay? And he said, we have a common purpose. And that really got me. He said,  we’re more needed over here. We have more powerful positions over here than we are at home. And we’re worried about that person on our right and that person on our left, we care about more than us. And we’re worried about keeping America safe.

So I came home and the last part of the magic wand would be, I said, we need a common purpose. We’re our team. We don’t have a common purpose. We think we do. So our common purpose is not enough. People are having fun in sports right now. There’s too much pressure. So I want us to have more fun than any other sports team in, in college.

And if not, then we’re not getting what we need accomplished. You’ve got to have fun. Secondly, I want every player on our team to graduate because that’s what they come for, whether they’re good or bad, whether they’re playing or not. I want you to graduate. Thirdly. I want us to win all the games.

Because that’s what we’re trying to do. And if we don’t win all the games, it’s hard to get them to be in a good mental state, to graduate, and they’re not having much fun. And then the fourth part of this is I want to help better prepare them for life after football, because it’s coming. Yes. God’s going to take their legs away.

You and I played some point it’s gone, it’s over. And I’ve seen even the NFL guys have a lot of trouble. Transferring from where they are transitioning into another life. They made so much money playing a game. I’m not going to do that. They’re not even paying you, man.  And the other thing we’re talking about, name, image, and likeness, and transfer portal.

We got so many things going on. I want the second team, right guard to be able to get something out of name, image, and likeness, not just somehow he gonna make enough money. Anyway, he doesn’t need it. But all those other kids, we got 120 Debby and only 11 play at a time. So we have an issue with morale and depression and self image.

And, but what we can do is give these kids the gift  of branding and name, image, and likeness to help them get jobs when they get out. So if I could wave my wand that would be it. Let’s communicate better. Let’s make sure that we learn to trust and respect regardless of what color you are, regardless of how much money you’ve got, regardless of who your mommy and daddy are. And regardless really of how talented you are, because if you’re here, you, you have a place on our team and let’s figure out what that place is, but you have a place and then let’s make sure that everybody graduates and then let’s make sure that we have a we’re better prepared for life after football when we get through.

Dr Debby Stroman:  That is a very, very good usage of that magic wand. Your principles, I can feel not only what you say, but I can feel that they are genuine. It is authentic to you. I love what you said about leadership that understanding that it can be taught because there’s a myth out there that all the leaders in the world were born that way. And it can be taught. You have to have a open heart, open mind, be willing to learn right instruction, but it can be done. And I know, I know people who have been with you, whether it says players, whether it’s coaches, staff, and administrators, they feel you, they feel your energy. And we are so appreciative that you are not only the head coach of UNC football, but also you are a leader.

You are a leader. At the university and the state of North Carolina. So final question coach, when it’s all over and you’re sitting in your rocking chair, watching your favorite team play, and you reflect back on your career in so many different ways, what do you want to be remembered for?

Mack Brown:  I want to be remembered for a guy who worked really, really hard and always did what he knew was the right thing to do.

And I probably wasn’t always that way. I’ve, I’ve grown to this and I’ve grown through some mistakes. I’ve grown through some really stupid things that I’ve done. I’ve gone through some people that I’ve been so blessed that I’ve had great leaders and people that I’ve had as counsel for me.

And I’ve asked them hard questions. And I took five, six, seven people that I really admired and said, why are you successful? And what do you what makes you right. And good. And, then I would give them things that I was struggling with. How would you handle this? What would you do? And I wouldn’t always do what they told me they would do, but at least I could take it in and I could listen.

And I could research it in my mind to a point that I’d move it around and see if it fit me. So what I want is he did it with class. He worked really hard. He always did what he knew was the right thing to do. And, and I do want,  the fans, the university our student body and our players to know that when we were here, they had fun.

One of the best things is when young people come up now that are older, when you were here before I had so much fun and I thought, good, that’s what we want. That’s part of the experience. You played basketball at Virginia. Part of reason, young people choose a university is, the sports and the fun and the parties and the feeling and the celebrating around a great win for their school.

So  I want to be part of that joy and happiness when I’m through

Dr Debby Stroman:  Well you’ve certainly done that and then some, so thank you again, coach Mack Brown, University of North Carolina football. Thank you, coach.

Mack Brown:  Thank you doctor, and thanks for all you do. And, and we got to have people like you  and hopefully people like me that keep fighting to do what’s right.

And at some point our world is going to keep improving to a point that all the younger ones that follow us will be in a better place.

Dr Debby Stroman:  Yes. Well stated.

Full Episode Transcript

If You Only Knew…with Dr. Debby Stroman is edited and produced by Earfluence, and brought to you by The Diversity Movement.

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