The NBA has always been a progressive sports organization. Historically, players are freely able to speak their political views and have autonomy over their career. However there is one glaring issue — the lack of diversity in head coaching positions.
In many ways, the NBA is the benchmark for what a major organization should be like. Players have a lot more freedom to speak their minds, the atmosphere is family friendly and the league protects its players for a future after basketball, unlike the NFL.
The root of the issue of black coaches having extremely limited tenures comes from the very top of the food chain, where representation of people of color is almost non-existent.
Robert Johnson of the Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets) was the first black-majority team owner in 2004 in the league’s 71-year history. For a league that is dominated by African American players, it shocks me there are only two non-white owners in the NBA. These players don’t have any representation at the top of the spectrum, which can lead to a financial and social disparity between white coaches and black basketball players. White-dominant ownership groups cannot represent a majority of their players that go out and make an abundant amount of money for them on a nightly basis, because they simply can’t relate to them. The NBA understands that basketball is important in black history and has used its platform to represent that, but it should take it a step further by putting black individuals who are qualified in positions of power and influence. While it may not be so easy to change ownership groups, there is definitely room for more black coaches in the league. When there are a lack of black coaches in the league it feeds the historical misinterpretation that black people are not as smart or capable of doing things as a white man.
From 2001-2014, the NBA averaged 11 black head coaches per season which was as diverse as the league has ever been. On opening night in 2012, half of the NBA’s 30 head coaches were people of color, including 14 black coaches, an all-time high. Today, there are only four black coaches in the league.
Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who is black, has been a head coach of two teams in the league and has found moderate success. When asked if the NBA has a racial issue when it comes to coaching in 2015, he merely brushed it off as a coincidence.
“If anything, I trust that the league is fair,” said Casey in a Bleacher Report article. “So I trust that this is probably going to be a blip on the radar, and you’ll see that number go back up again, hopefully in the next couple years.”
While getting the head coach as a black individual is already hard, keeping them has become a bigger issue. Bleacher Report did a study on black versus white tenure when it comes to NBA coaches and found that in the last 10 years white coaches have averaged 3.2 seasons while black coaches have averaged 2.85. Each team has its own ownership and morals, but with this kind of data floating around it’s hard to look past the anomaly.
I’m hopeful that the NBA will trend toward the right direction when it comes to having people of color in more powerful positions. Let’s hope that the greatest sports organization in the world can get better.