In May 2015, Marshall Cho was hired as the head basketball coach at Lake Oswego High School in Portland, OR. The school’s prestigious program is perhaps most famously known for its 2006 state championship run led by Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love.
Cho, the former Director of Basketball Operations at the University of Portland and assistant coach at powerhouse DeMatha High School in Maryland, is the first Asian American head basketball coach in Lake Oswego’s 65-year history. In this episode of DW Shorts, Coach Cho talks a little bit about why he took the job, and how his experience as an immigrant informed his approach to coaching.
It is no secret that Asian Americans are not well represented by quantity in the sport of basketball here in the U.S. And that is reflected perhaps even more so in the head coaching ranks.
Eric Spoelstra became the first Asian American NBA head coach in 2008 when Pat Riley named him to the Miami Heat job. He was the first Asian American coach in any of the four major American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL).
Spoelstra currently remains the only Asian American head coach in the NBA.
Former Kansas Jayhawks guard Rex Walters is, to our knowledge, the only current NCAA Division I head coach of Asian American descent. Walters was first hired as head coach for Florida Atlantic University from 2006-08, and he has been the head coach at the University of San Francisco since taking the position in 2008.
Jeff Hironaka was one of the Pacific Northwest’s most prolific Division II head coaches from 2002-09 at Seattle Pacific University until he left for an assistant position at Washington State in 2009. Hironaka is currently Associate Head Coach at Division I Portland State University.
There is no official database of Asian American basketball coaches at the amateur level, at least not one that has been accessible to Dat Winning, so it’s hard to definitively say Walters was the first Division I head coach of Asian American descent, or that Jeff Hironaka was the first in Division II.
If there is a coach you think we should know about, please let us know.