In 2010, 82 percent of Black players were at the forefront of the NBA. A decade later and that 82 percent figure remains the same. So why is diversity still on the sidelines in NBA Front Offices?
This question comes after a collective walkout by players after the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor deaths. These days, social justice awareness is at an all-time high around the NBA.
At the start of last season, 33 percent of NBA coaches were people of color. That number is vastly different for players of color at 81.9 percent. Let’s take a look at why those numbers are so different.
The opportunity to coach a team without prior assistant coaching experience simply isn’t there for former Black players. Former player, Steve Nash, with no previous assistant coaching experience, is now the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Coincidentally, Nash is White.
Former player and current Black head coach of the Clippers, Tyronn Lue, took several assistant coaching jobs, before taking his first coaching job. For Nash to not be required to hold a coaching assistant job before becoming a head coach is an eye-opener.
One of the most revealing examples of front office inequity in recent history involves former African-American coach, Mark Jackson. The playoffs were always in sight for Jackson’s Golden State Warriors. Typically, coaches who make consecutive playoff appearances do not get fired. However, after just three seasons and with an above-average record, Jackson gets fired.
Steve Kerr, a White coach, took on the same role as Jackson — but without having any coaching experience. ESPN pundit, Stephen A. Smith, always lobbies for Jackson, now a broadcaster, to get another shot as a coach. Smith also frequently discusses whether the NBA should adopt a Rooney Rule following the NFL’s example. The Rooney Rule emphasizes that at least one Black coach is in the discussion for all coaching vacancies.
In 2010, only 37 percent of people of color were represented in the NBA front offices. That number just about holds steady today, ten years later. The race problem in the front office comes down to family.
White families have been passing down NBA teams to different generations for years. The most notable cases involve two of the most successful NBA franchises, the Lakers and the Spurs. Jim and Jeanie Buss are predecessors to their father, Jerry, who was successful as the Lakers’ owner in the 1980s. The Holt Family has owned the Spurs for years. As of last year, the children in both families have become the beneficiaries of team ownership from their parents.
This, of course, is not always the case. Former basketball powerhouse, Michael Jordan, owns the Charlotte Hornets outright, on his own. Still, Black representation in the front office isn’t budging much from the 37 percent figure in 2010.
Despite the perception, White owners and GMs are not necessarily racist. They just hire coaches who look like them. This explains why Black coaches and Black people in the front offices are scarce.
Will the diversity problem in the NBA ever get better?
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