The NBA Conference Finals are nearing its end. The Phoenix Suns have punched their ticket to the NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years. The Milwaukee Bucks have taken a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals with the hopes of avenging the 2 previous seasons of disappointing exits in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Off the court, there are some significant things that are standing out to me. Three of the final four coaches are Black (Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, & Nate McMillan). Hall of Famer Grant Hill is part of the Hawks ownership. James Jones, who recently won the NBA Executive of the Year Award, is the GM of the Suns. As a New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans fan, for the second year in a row I get to see another one of our former All-Stars make it the NBA Finals with Chris Paul and hopefully Jrue Holiday. Fuck Dell Demps!
With the NBA offseason looming, teams have made some statement hires at their vacant Head Coach positions. Longtime assistant coach Ime Udoka was hired to the Boston Celtics. Hall of Famer Jason Kidd was hired by his former team, the Dallas Maverick, after a successful run as a LA Lakers assistant coach which saw him get his second championship ring. Rounding up the last of the hires for now is former Finals MVP, Chauncey Billups, for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Still left open are the Head Coaching jobs for the Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, and my New Orleans Pelicans. Brooklyn Nets assistant coach, Jacque Vaughn, has taken his name out of consideration for the Pelicans job, and University of Memphis Head Coach, Anfernee Hardaway, has done the same for the Magic job. Meanwhile, Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach, Sam Cassell, has emerged as the top candidate for the Wizards job.
The fact that I brought up the success of these black coaches, black GM, black ownership, and the emergence of black Head Coaching hires is of a petty intent. The coaching hires have been positive ones with the exception of Chauncey Billups due to a 1997 rape allegation. What has kept the NBA relevant is their willingness to listen to their players and take action. In recent years, the NBA offseason has become more fascinating than the actual season itself as a result.
My petty intent is this: Don’t you wish the NFL could do something like this in their hiring practices? How many decent minority coaches will continue to take lesser tier opportunities because NFL Owners and GMs either refuse or are reluctant to give minority candidates a shot at leadership? The NBA has shown us that business doesn’t have to go dark in order for deals to be made behind the scenes that will make big splashes for its future.
The NFL continues to be boring in the dark with business as usual on the coaching side. To right this continuous wrong, NFL players are going to have to speak up in force at some point. I am personally tired of seeing Tony Dungy go on an apology tour for the NFL once all the vacant Head Coaching jobs have been filled.
The unfortunate reality is this, the NFL is like a government agency now. They’re boring in the dark until an unspeakable tragedy forces them to make some serious policy changes. It took the death of Dave Duerson, former NFL great and part of the NFLPA Executive Leadership, to seriously consider the effects of CTE. It took the brutal video of Ray Rice cold-cocking his wife to address the domestic abuse issue amongst NFL players. My hope is that the tragedy that awaits the NFL in their hiring practices isn’t as devastating a blow as their predecessors. Something tells me they won’t be so lucky.