CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — When he took over the Chicago Bears in 2004 and again this spring when Illinois hired him, Lovie Smith broke new ground that came with his title. In each case, he was the team's first black head coach.
His childhood in East Texas prepared him for both jobs.
As a fifth-grader in Big Sandy, Smith was part of the first group of black kids to move into the small town's newly desegregated schools in the late 1960s.
Smith says integration wasn't as difficult there as it was in some places.
Current Big Sandy coach Larry Minter says the three state titles Smith's teams eventually won probably helped smooth the transition.
Chicago Bears CEO Ted Phillips says there was no pressure to hire a black coach when Smith was hired.
But at Illinois, some had complained about the lack of black head coaches.