Getting ready for his fifth season as the Newman Jets’ Head Coach, Ron Allen, Jr. “RJ” understands the responsibility he carries every day. Allen has the day-to-day expectations of being the first Black man to lead the only private NCAA Division II program in the state of Kansas. Still, he believes there is no greater responsibility than to help develop his players into upstanding men, not just outstanding players.
“The most important thing to me is just helping these young kids develop and grow as human beings. I feel like that’s my reason for coaching, seeing these kids grow and develop and to help them learn relationship and character-building skills while holding them accountable as young men,” said Coach Allen.
To Allen, wins are important and worthy of celebration, but he’s also conscientious of the rare opportunity he’s been given as a Black head coach at a predominantly White institution. In Division II sports, excluding HBCUs, Black coaches made up 6% of all Head Coaches.
The percentages had remained relatively the same since 2012 when 5% of Division II college coaches were Black.
“I take pride in being a Black Head coach. I know that I don’t just represent myself; I know that I represent a lot of other young minority coaches out there who want and hope for an opportunity. I’m an example for many coaches out there, you know, how I carry myself, how I react, how I coach my team, So that’s, that’s something that I don’t take lightly,” said Coach Allen.
A Wichita native, Allen played basketball for his father, legendary Wichita East High Aces coach Ron Allen. He was a two-time all-city and all-state player who, with his father, led the Aces to a state championship 6A in 2002.
Ron Allen was the first Black player on the Southeast High School boys basketball team and in less than 20 years as the Aces head coach won over 300 games. Allen, Sr was inspired and committed to passing on his wisdom to the next generation, which he did with RJ.
“I grew up around the game, and the thing that I learned from him was how to be a father figure and his ability to serve others, like giving kids rides home, giving kids coat who didn’t have one in the winter, it was those type of deeds and actions that I saw that really drew me to wanting to work with people and loving the game of basketball,” said RJ Allen.
RJ went on to play at Hutchinson Community College, where he was chosen team captain and led the Blue Dragons to the KJCCC title in 2003-2004 with a 30-3 record.
After earning his associate’s degree at Hutchinson, Allen began a seven-year career as a player and coach at Division II Concordia University in St. Paul, MN.
As a player, Allen helped lead the Golden Bears to their first 20-win season in 2006-2007, and a third place finish in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. It was the Bears’ best conference result in 17 years as a Division II team.
Upon returning to Wichita, Allen was the Jets’ Associate Head Coach before taking over as Head Coach. During that time, the Jets won 88 games, 52 in the Heartland Conference, including four visits to the conference tournament. In 2013, the team made their first NCAA bid, following a 20-8 season.
After stepping up to the head coaching spot in the 2017, during the 2018 season, Allen led the Jets to an impressive 20-9 record overall which ties the school record for most wins in a single season stepping up to the e NCAA DII era.
After a challenging 4-18 2020 season, Allen believes that last year’s experience will prove beneficial, and says the ups and downs of the season helped bond the team.
Allen and his wife, Tia, reside in Wichita with their two sons, Cameron and Kendall.
The Newman Jets will kick off their 2021-2022 season on Fri., Nov 12, at 6:00 p.m. against Concordia St. Paul University in Minneapolis, MN.