What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Off-White founder Virgil Abloh named artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton

The Illinois-born son of Ghanaian immigrants is noted for his ‘fascination with irony, with memes, and with context’

6:56 AMThe news broke just a few moments after midnight on March 26. Virgil Abloh, founder (in 2014) of the upscale street wear label Off-White, and a former creative director for Kanye West, is the new artistic director of men’s wear at Louis Vuitton. Vuitton, a staple of fashionistas around the world, is according to The New York Times, “one of the oldest and most powerful European houses in the luxury business.”

Known for a relentless work ethic, and his deep influence within the style world, Abloh is at the cutting edge of global fashion. His collaborations alone — Nike, Vans, and Levi’s among them — seem never to be not trending, whether on Instagram, or on the glossy pages of magazines. His portfolio also includes an upcoming project with Ikea, and a retrospective of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. The Illinois-born son of Ghanian immigrants, Abloh is noted for his “fascination with irony, with memes and with context.”

Abloh, who has an undergraduate civil engineering degree and a master’s in architecture, is Vuitton’s first African-American artistic director. He’s in a rare but rising space for black designers: Olivier Rousteing is currently creative director of Balmain, and Ozwald Boateng was designer for Givenchy men’s 2003-07. Vuitton though, from its classic monogram to its brightest and most whimsical eras, is Vuitton.

The house captures imaginations, whether they be on relaxing on the decks of yachts or the standing in a subway platform. At a panel a few years ago, Abloh said, “My motivation is, in part, a bit of angst that comes from feeling like I don’t belong; that our generation doesn’t belong. I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t just going to be a consumer; that at least one of us would appear at the end of a Parisian runway.” Talk about speaking it into existence.

Sweet 16 supermatchup: Mariah Musselman to interview Sister Jean

Nevada coach’s daughter and Loyola Chicago’s team chaplain are the media darlings of tournament

12:37 PMAs the NCAA tournament resumes with the Sweet 16, the nation is looking forward to one of the most anticipated matchups of the tournament.

Thursday night, Mariah Musselman, 8, the daughter of Nevada coach Eric Musselman, interviews Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 98-year-old team chaplain for Loyola Chicago, before the team’s South Region game in Atlanta.

The made-for-TV meeting — CBS set it up — brings together the two media darlings of this year’s March Madness.

Sister Jean’s become such a celebrity watching Loyola’s two nail-biting games from the sidelines that former President Barack Obama gave her a shoutout last week.

And Mariah Musselman, the daughter of Musselman and former ESPN anchor Danyelle Sargent-Musselman, has proved she has a bright future in journalism with her interview of her dad.

Eric Musselman, who has demonstrated a personality of his own with his postgame locker room celebrations, is happy for his daughter’s exposure.

“I just hope my daughter can make as much money as my wife did in broadcasting,” he said. “It would really, really be great for our family if she could start on her broadcasting career as soon as possible.”

Mariah, who wore wolf ears during Nevada’s upset of Cincinnati on Sunday, showed a tremendous amount of poise and charisma during the interview with her father. She said she wants to follow in her mom’s footsteps and be a sports anchor or an actress.

“It was a good start,” Eric Musselman said, beaming, as he discussed being grilled by his daughter in front of a national television audience. “It was a big, big moment for her. It was a big moment for our family.”

What a week for Naomi Osaka, who won her first WTA title and beat her childhood idol Serena Williams

Forget winning, Osaka was all about that post-match handshake

12:16 PMEver since Naomi Osaka celebrated her 20th birthday in October, the Afro-Japanese youngblood has done no worse than quarterfinals and fourth-round exits.

On March 18, Osaka defeated Daria Kasatkina in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California, to win her first WTA title. Osaka played nearly perfect tennis, dropping only one set in eight matches and beating three players who have been WTA No. 1s (Maria Sharapova, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep) and a No. 2 (Agnieszka Radwanska) en route to the title.

Hours after her first WTA win, Osaka’s coach informed her that she got paired up with Serena Williams, her childhood idol, in the first round of the Miami Open. Osaka would end up winning the match fairly easily, 6-3, 6-2. While winning was certainly a high point, it was the post-match handshake that really resonated with Osaka.

“This is going to be really bad,” Osaka cautioned. “Sometimes when I’m in a really important position, when I’m serving, I’m like, ‘What would Serena [Williams] do?’ ”

Osaka, ranked 44th in the world heading into Indian Wells, has risen to No. 22.

Buffalo’s Mark Alnutt becomes 15th black athletic director at an FBS school

He replaces Allen Greene, who left for Auburn

8:12 PMThe University at Buffalo announced on Wednesday that Mark Alnutt, the deputy athletic director at the University of Memphis, will be the school’s next director of athletics, replacing the recently departed Allen Greene.

Alnutt, 45, spent almost three years at Memphis, where he helped raise more than $40 million for the athletic department and was instrumental in the hiring of men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith in 2016. Smith was fired and replaced by former Tigers guard Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway this month. Before that, Alnutt served as athletic director at Southeast Missouri State University from 2012 to 2015 and held multiple leadership positions at the University of Missouri from 2000 to 2012, including associate athletic director. A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Alnutt also played linebacker and tight end for Missouri in the early 1990s.

In January, Greene left his post as UB’s athletic director after just two years to take the same position at the University of Auburn, paving the way for Alnutt to take over a program that had its first NCAA men’s basketball tournament victory last week and its first Sweet 16 appearance in school history when the women’s basketball team upset Florida State on Monday.

With the hiring of Alnutt, the number of black athletic directors in the 130 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools increases to 15 (11.5 percent). He joins Northern Illinois’ Sean Frazier as the only black athletic directors in the Mid-American Conference.

“We are so excited to have Mark join our UB family,” University at Buffalo president Satish K. Tripathi, who himself is one of just five school presidents of Asian descent among FBS schools, said in a statement. “His time in NCAA athletics has been defined by his leadership and vision. We believe that he possesses exactly the qualities needed to elevate UB Athletics to our next tier of excellence.”

Alnutt’s first day will be April 11.

Black athletic directors in FBS

  • Allen Greene, Auburn
  • Bernard Muir, Stanford
  • Carla Williams, Virginia
  • David Williams II, Vanderbilt
  • Derrick Gragg, Tulsa
  • Eugene Smith, Ohio State University
  • Damon Evans, Maryland (interim)
  • Lynn Swann, USC
  • Martin Jarmond, Boston College
  • Michael Williams, California
  • Ray Anderson, Arizona State
  • Sean Frazier, Northern Illinois
  • Stan Wilcox, Florida State
  • Warde J. Manuel, Michigan
  • Mark Alnutt, Buffalo

Ava DuVernay to be honored by Gordon Parks Foundation

The group also will fete Ronald O. Perelman, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Sherrilyn Ifill

1:28 PMAva DuVernay will soon be toasted by the Gordon Parks Foundation in late May, the group announced Tuesday. The group’s annual dinner happens May 22 and honors individuals who make strides in performing and visual arts as well as humanitarianism.

The A Wrinkle In Time filmmaker will be joined by businessman and philanthropist Ronald O. Perelman, author Ta-Nehisi Coates, civil rights attorney Sherrilyn Ifill, photographer Sally Mann and documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz, all of whom also will be honored at New York staple Cipriani 42nd Street. The night will be co-chaired by Karl Lagerfeld, Kendrick Lamar, Valerie Jarrett, Alicia Keys, Kasseem Dean (megaproducer Swizz Beatz), Usher Raymond, Janelle Monáe, Common, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Kenneth and Kathryn Chenault, Judy and Leonard Lauder, and Alexander Soros.

Previous honorees include Monáe, U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and photographer Annie Leibovitz.

DuVernay’s honor comes on the heels of good recent news: Last week it was announced that DC Comics tapped her to direct the superhero film The New Gods for Warner Bros., which makes her the first woman of color to tackle a DC Comics film.