By Gary Norris Gray, Staff Reporter
OAKLAND- The National Basketball Association has to do a better job with their hiring and firing procedures. There are thirty teams and FIVE African American head coaches, 73 Black head coaches in 73 years, that is one per year.
Remember the first Black head coach did not get a job until 1966 in Boston with Bill Russell. That was twenty years after the league opened. It is time for a change when the players on the floor are 80 percent Black and the head coaching staff is 85 percent white.
Sunday morning the Houston Rockets started their search for a new head coach as (No Defense) Mike D’Antoni walked away from his job after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five game playoff. The Chicago Bulls fired Jim Boylen, the New Orleans Pelicans fired Alvin Gentry, the Philadelphia 76ers let Brett Brown walk and the Indiana Pacers fired Nate McMillian after being swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Last weekend the Brooklyn Nets hired (NBA) National Basketball Association All Star guard Steve Nash to be their new head coach; at the time there were two Black assistant coaches in Brooklyn that guided the team in the playoffs.
Last month The New York Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau replacing David Fitzdale, another African American. There is something wrong with this picture and maybe just maybe the (NFL) National Football League’s Rooney Rule should be in place because there are currently five African American head coaches.
Before anybody goes off the deep end this is not a knock on Steve Nash, Steve Kerr, or Luke Walton, but the hiring and firing system in the NBA needs to be changed.
It seems like Steve Nash came through the back door with the help of super-stars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets. Nash was working with the Golden State Warriors during the Durant years in Oakland and had Steve’s ear when he moved to New York.
This simple act by Durant, Irving, Nash, and the Brooklyn Nets eliminates one job without any interviews or searches. The old boy network in full force and this is what former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick was talking about five years ago.
The knock on the present hiring system is a man like Mike D’Antoni can travel from team to team to team and not win a single championship while African American head coaches get bounced for winning titles. D’Antoni does not like defense but continues to tinker with different offenses AND continues to lose playoff games.
His most recent project was small ball with the Houston Rockets. IT DID NOT WORK!!! Everywhere this man has gone he has destroyed the team’s defensive system. It started with the Denver Nuggets in 1998-99; he was not there long enough to do any serious damage. The Phoenix Suns 2003-2008, this year the Suns finally recovered from his antics and are now looking like a complete team.
The New York Knicks 2008-2012, it was fun for awhile until teams would come into the Garden and score 100 plus points every night. The Los Angeles Lakers 2012-2014 All Star point guard Kobe Bryant was not having it and ran him out of town.
The Houston Rockets 2016-2020 will now be paying the luxury tax for years to come with the contracts of superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Yet this man continues to find head coaching jobs. The question, as my friend Michael Louis Ingram would say not W, not X, but WHY?
Larry Brown is another head coach that could not stay still. Brown might have the NBA record with coaching nine different teams. This started with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA American Basketball Association in 1972-1973 to the NBA National Basketball Association Charlotte Bobcats in 2008-2010. Mr. Brown won one championship with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. Again, would an African American head coach be allowed to do this? We all know that answer.
AFRICAN AMERICAN HEAD COACHES
Current African American head coaches, 1.)Lloyd Pierce of the Atlanta Hawks, 2.) J.B. Bickerstaff of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 3.) Dwane Casey of the Detroit Pistons, 4.) Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers, 5.) Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns. Rivers is the old man of this group and he could be exiting after the seven game loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat is of Filipino descent and James Borrego of the Charlotte Hornets is Hispanic descent are the two other minorities head coaches. The NBA might want to start a diversity program to change these numbers.
These are not good, seven out of thirty does not sound promising and there might have to be a cultural change, just like the National Football League with the Rooney Rule.
“The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is an example of affirmative action, even though there is no hiring quota or hiring preference given to minorities, only an interviewing quota. It was established in 2003.” One has to question this approach too because there are currently four minority head coaches in the NFL out of 32 teams, Brian Flores-Miami Dolphins, Anthony Lynn-Los Angeles Chargers, Ron Rivera- The Washington Football Club, and Mike Tomlin-Pittsburgh Steelers, the longest tenured Black coach in the league-2007.
Three African American coaches were fired this season David Fizdale-New York Knicks, Alvin Gentry-New Orleans Pelicans, Nate McMillan-Indiana Pacers dropping the total number to five Black head coaches.
There are currently six new job openings The Chicago Bulls, The Houston Rockets, The Indiana Pacers, The New Orleans Pelicans, The Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Philadelphia 76ers. How many African Americans will even get an interview for these jobs if they go the way of the Brooklyn Nets?
There are nine head coaches that are ex-players only two are Black, Doc Rivers of the Los Angeles Clippers and Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns.
There are over 60 African American assistant coaches and some of these men have been waiting for years to land that head coaching job. The NBA is now repeating the history of the National Football League and that long line of Black coaching assistants continues to grow.
BLACK ASSISTANT COACHES
Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin, Houston Rockets assistant Elston Turner, Minnesota Timberwolves associate head coach David Venterpool, Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas are just a few good candidates for the job and have been waiting more than ten years.
Patrick Ewing, Jerry Stackhouse, and Juwan Howard are all ex-players who have sat on the benches of other teams. Ewing ended up head coach of Georgetown University in a rebuilding project last year. Stackhouse is now at Vanderbilt University and Howard also returned to his alma-mater, The University of Michigan.
MARK JACKSON-GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Mark Jackson turned the Golden State Warriors into a defensive steel trap that nobody could penetrate. He improved the Dubs defensive play into a legitimate playoff team. The Golden State Warriors made a 30 game swing in two years. Jackson had difficulties with the lifestyles of some of the Warriors executive staff and had to leave because of his religious leanings.
Mark understood the x’s and o’s on the court but could not communicate off the court. Jackson has one of the brightest basketball minds in America today and should get another chance to show the world his basketball talent.
Do not forget the Golden State Warrior assistant coach Mike Brown who went undefeated 12-0 in the 2016-17 playoffs in Steve Kerr’s absence. Mr. Brown also guided the Cleveland Cavaliers to back to back 60 win season but could not get past the Boston Celtics.
Brown also taught and put pride back into the Purple and Gold of the Los Angeles Lakers with solid defense in 2011-2012.
Question, will Mike Brown get another shot? He has a winning regular and playoff season record. Yet he sits the bench in Oakland, California.
Tyronn Lue took the Cavaliers to a championship beating the Golden State Warriors for Cleveland’s first NBA title. One of the few rookie coaches to ever win a championship. He is now an assistant under Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers.
MAURICE CHEEKS-PHILADELPHIA 76ers
Maurice Cheeks stayed in Philadelphia for years hoping for that chance of coaching before moving on to the Portland Trail Blazers as a head coach 2001-2005.
He then returned to Philly in 2005 to try his hand with the struggling young 76ers 2005-2008. He would then move on to Oklahoma City and the Thunder in 2009. Cheeks went to Detroit as head coach one year before returning to Oklahoma City where he is today.
In 2003 in Portland, Oregon Maurice Cheeks is remembered more for singing the National Anthem with a twelve year old young lady, Natalie Gilbert who forgot the words than has 33 years of coaching.
The Chicago Bulls, The Houston Rockets, The Indiana Pacers, The New Orleans Pelicans, The Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Philadelphia 76ers have no excuses with a growing list of African American names that are assistants coaches today. Jason Kidd, Wes Unseld Jr., Chauncey Billups, Jamahl Mosley, Mark Jackson, David Fizdale, Ime Udoka, Sam Cassell, Nate McMillan, Jarron Collins, Jacque Vaughn, Darvin Ham and Phil Handy are all looking for head coaching jobs.
This system will not change with Michael Jordan-Charlotte Hornets, African American, Joseph Tsai-Brooklyn Nets, Asian American and Marc Lasry- Milwaukee Bucks, Arab-American the only minority owners in the league. Owners hire individuals that look like them and with 27 Caucasian owners, the NBA has a project.
Gary Norris Gray – Writer, Author, Historian, Gibbs Magazine-Oakland, California and New England Informer- Boston, Mass. THE GRAYLINE:- The Analects of A Black Disabled Man, The Gray Leopard Cove, Soul Tree Radio In The Raw, and The Batchelor News Radio Network, Disabled Community Activist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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