How the NBA’s deliberate push for diverse appointments led to black coaches leading half of the league’s teams

SAN FRANCISCO — Every time a head coach in the NBA opens, team bosses and owners receive calls from Commissioner Adam Silver, Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum or Executive Vice President Oris Stewart to provide resources to ensure the hiring process is diversified.

And after years of internal and external criticism, the league turned things upside down, especially in the field of black coaches. Half of the NBA’s coaches are black, having hit a low of six less than two years ago.

Tatum has been at the forefront of this initiative with league teams, always suggesting that numbers are periodic but knowing that something has to be done. The NBA has a database with the names of nearly 400 assistant coaches across all league and G League levels that teams have access to.

“The presidents and general managers and the people who are responsible for making those decisions have access to this database, so they can look up and go in there and say, ‘Well, I never would have known about this candidate, but now I can access them,'” Tatum told Yahoo Sports before Game 5 of the NBA Finals at Chase Center. “This is a list of candidates. So there is a culture now where it is just part of the process and it is just an expectation. And I think we see that kind of payoff really, really.”

Some considered “diversity” a dirty word, as if the broader network would prevent an organization from hiring the best candidate. To be sure, margins are often thin in these cases, especially when it is easy to assign someone who is familiar to him or has a sixth degree of separation connection with him.

The league still has a lot of work to do when it comes to team captains and employees in business, with far too many qualified CEOs and basketball experts being overrun in many jobs over the years, which the league especially acknowledges. . But it is worth noting his progress in the training space.

Tatum says the NBA is on the cusp of a coach hacking it, citing legitimate interviews that have happened over the years. He said it was only a matter of time.

The NBA had to be intentional and at times forceful on the exact number of teams that were resisting such suggestions. I always resented the idea of ​​implementing “Rooney Rule” in NFL style, Interviewing non-white candidates. The main reasons are: It didn’t work, and she felt she could organically change the processes around her teams.

Seeing Ime Udoka lead the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first year after watching Monty Williams do so at Phoenix in his second season was at least supposed to have an imitating effect, and it probably does.

Celtics Assistant and Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire joined Udoka and now has a sense of optimism that he can secure a first seat when the opportunity presents itself.

“When Ime wins, you win. When Monty wins, you win,” Stoddamer told Yahoo Sports. “I applaud the NBA, the owners, first for recognizing that, then doing something about it, and then the guys who got the jobs, for being ready for the job. “

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (left), assistant coach Damon Stoddamer (centre) and striker Grant Williams (right) speak during the media day of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center in San Francisco on June 1, 2022. (Kyle Terada / USA) today's sports)

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (left), assistant coach Damon Stoddamer (centre) and striker Grant Williams (right) speak during the media day of the 2022 NBA Finals at Chase Center in San Francisco on June 1, 2022. (Kyle Terada / USA) today’s sports)

The two iconic NBA franchises will be led by Black coaches, Odoka in Boston and Darvin Hamm Take over the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s not just training jobs for her sake, it’s the quality of opportunities and the opportunity to grow from past experiences.

“Look at the men, [Jason] Kidd, this is his third chance, in Dallas,” Stoddamer said. “And he did a great job, and he didn’t get enough credit for the work he did. I see this thing evolving. For me, I’m really encouraging.”

Black coaches rarely get the third chance, and Kidd may have been a special case given his relationship with the Mavericks. Regardless, he had put his stamp on it from the moment he arrived. The coaches had to be aware of the opportunities they picked because some of them were environments that were not conducive to winning. But they also cannot turn down an opportunity.

There was a sense of desperation from the seasoned coaches and assistants knocking on the door alike. The evidence was clear: Last appointment, fired first. The number was seven in the 2015-16 season and seven in the 2020-21 season – the year four black coaches entered the second round of playoffs (Doc Rivers, Williams, Ty Low and Nate MacMillan).

The reasons have been myriad, from lack of exposure to the game’s shift toward using more analytics — an area that routinely excludes diversity, sometimes on purpose — to the hands of team ownership that are changing at a greater rate over the past decade than at any time in the league’s history.

Not surprisingly, some people were not comfortable hiring black men in positions of leadership and power. Sometimes the partial in each situation is justified, but the overall picture was not pretty. In addition, coaches often felt that they could not speak out if they did not have the opportunity, for fear of being left out of other opportunities.

No advocates, no methods.

Coaches like Rivers or Duane Casey were left to beat the drum for the entire industry, an almost unfair burden on the Deans.

“I think some black coaches, maybe in the past, were offended, but you didn’t say much,” Stoddamer said. “As if you were going to complain and had no one to speak for you, you seem indignant.”

Stoudamire was in the college ranks for years, in Memphis and later in Arizona, where he starred as a picker before being the inaugural pick by the Toronto Raptors in 1995. During his playing days, he didn’t see much of a connection between team ownership and assistant coaches, a trend He says it has changed, at least in Boston.

“It’s amazing when you know [team] Owners on a first name basis. “Like, angel break bread with us,” said Stoddamer. “The dynamics are very different. It is not uncommon to see our companions watching the training and not watching the practice to criticize it, they just watch the practice to watch the practice.

“It used to be when the owners and the boss came in, there they were about to make a move. Someone would trade in. My coach is on the hot seat, but no it’s not.”

There is a personal touch that can’t be measured in a two-hour interview, Stoddamer says. However, the NBA has been more active in preparing potential coaches for the opportunities.

“We do mock interviews, and we go through those processes with these assistant coaches, and former players who haven’t gone through that process yet,” Tatum said. “And really directing them, here’s what to expect when you go into those interviews. Not just having the pipeline but preparing.”

More tools, no excuses – for the difference.

Through this human contact, the NBA has fostered more opportunities for coaches to be in informal settings to create intimacy. Unfortunately, the Young Elder Network will be around forever, and it is impossible to know what is being said behind closed doors.

“It’s still very true in this business, when you’re making hiring decisions, you want to make sure you’re comfortable, and there has to be some harmony,” Tatum said. “We’ve created a lot of programming around that, around the summer league where referees and chief basketball operations are interacting with potential candidates, interacting with them, and communicating with them.”

Tatum again acknowledges how volatile things can be, but believes the league’s operations will consistently lead to results you can be proud of.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced his selection during the 2021 NBA Draft. Tatum was instrumental in helping the NBA diversify its coaching ranks.  (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announced his selection during the 2021 NBA Draft. Tatum was instrumental in helping the NBA diversify its coaching ranks. (Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)