June 20, 2013
By Kenneth Miller
Assistant Managing Editor
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is clearly the number one sports league when it comes to the hiring of Black head coaches, but are Black coaches being treated fairly?
With 30 teams under its umbrella, the NBA has 12 Black head coaches led by the dean Doc Rivers in Boston (416-305 and one NBA title), Toronto’s Dwane Casey (57-91), Tyron Corbin of Utah (87-89), Golden State’s Mark Jackson (70-78), Monty Williams of New Orleans (94-136), Jacque Vaughn of Orlando (20-62) and New York’s Mike Woodson (74-34) who has the highest winning percentage between all of the current Black coaches. New hires Mike Brown returning to Cleveland, Maurice Cheeks in Detroit, Larry Drew fired in Atlanta and hired in Milwaukee, and Jason Kidd went from playing to the coaching bench in a surprised hiring in Brooklyn with the Nets.
Drew led the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his three seasons in Atlanta and finished no worse than third each season, but was let go after compiling a 128-102 record.
Woodson has been fantastic with the Knicks after also being successful in Atlanta, taking over the basically the same team Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni failed to win with and leading them to the brink of the conference finals in his first full season.
Jackson flirted with being the coach of the year in only his second season with the Warriors eliminating Denver in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs and stretching the Spurs to six games in the second round before losing with a short roster.
Corbin has been steady for a Jazz franchise that has been a constant playoff team, but with a young overhauled roster it’s taking him some time and to the credit of management Utah is staying patient with him.
Meanwhile both Vaughn in Orlando and Casey in Toronto have been handed the keys to two bitter lemons. Vaughn without any previous coaching experience took over the Magic after they traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers and Casey’s Raptors have not endured a consistent roster during his reign there.
With coaching openings in Los Angeles with the Clippers, Philadelphia, Memphis and Denver, qualified Blacks such as Lionel Hollins, Byron Scott, Brian Shaw and Nate McMillan are waiting to see if their phone rings.
Hollins is likely to get the nod over Shaw for the gig in Denver any day now. He led Memphis to the Western Conference Finals where the Spurs swept it, but Hollins has been among the best coaches in the NBA the past two-seasons going 97-51 in Memphis.
His five-year mark with the Griz of 214-201 is better than many during that span, but for some odd reason he was not even offered a new contract after the season.
Scott, a former Morningside High School star and member of the Lakers Showtime era, has coached in the league for 13 seasons compiling a 416-521 record with two berths in the NBA Finals with the Nets.
However, after being fired in Cleveland he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to continue the rebuilding effort with the Cavs, which in essence was a college team, riddled with injuries. Cleveland fired him to rehire the guy they fired after LeBron James left via free agency.
Scott is a prime candidate to land with the Clippers, particularly because of his relationship with Chris Paul. He coached the star point guard in New Orleans and the Clippers job would be his first with a legit team since he was with the Nets.
Shaw is the one candidate that almost everyone concurs is the best coaching candidate without a head coaching job.
The associate head coach with the upstart Pacers, Shaw was supposed to be the heir apparent to replace Phil Jackson when he left the Lakers, but was passed over by Brown whom they abruptly canned after just five games into his second season.
He reportedly turned down both the Magic and Bobcats jobs, was a candidate for the Warriors job that went to Jackson and is now being considered the leading choice for both the Nuggets and the Clippers gig.
It was Phil Jackson who publically stated that the Nets job was perfect for Shaw, and then they went out and hired Kidd who has never called a timeout.
Could it be that the reputation of being linked with Phil Jackson is hurting Shaw?
He is credited with the development of Andrew Bynum while an assistant with the Lakers and the emergence of Pacers star Paul George.
Could it be that Shaw is just a better assistant coach than he would be a head coach? We don’t know because he hasn’t got the chance, while other assistant White coaches are being hired instead.
Frequently when Blacks are hired as head coaches it is with a team that is rebuilding, but they seldom are granted the time to see the job through.
The tasks for Cheeks in Detroit, Drew in Milwaukee, Brown in Cleveland is brutal. The Nuggets hire will have a chance for success and the Clippers hire will be under intense pressure to do better than their first place division finish.
No one is complaining or feeling sorry for any of these men who are each handsomely paid for the job they do.
However, with the lack of Blacks in front office positions and in ownership (Michael Jordan is the only Black owner), the question is fluid as to whether any of these current coaches will really get a chance to be successful.
Doc Rivers was the last Black coach to win an NBA championship, who will be the next one?