The NBA has been lauded for being “on the front lines” of increasing diversity in sports and on a social scale, but its lack of diversity in head coaching and elite front office positions is troubling. In regard to these social advances, the NBA is still treading water.
The fact that there are only 8 African-American coaches in the league is egregious enough.
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.
In 2015 there was a flurry of firings and a mass exodus that left the number of African-American coaches at seven. It was a 50 percent drop from three years prior and the lowest total in 16 years.
The league has never recovered.
Lonely At The Top
It gets worse as you move up the power structure.
The progress for Black executives has been incremental at best. Back in 2017, the NBA had four Black presidents of basketball operations in Doc Rivers, Masai Ujiri, Steve Mills and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson, and three black general managers in Dell Demps, Scott Perry, and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Koby Altman. The Knicks had the NBA’s first All-Black president and general manager duo with Mills and Perry.
Fast forward to 2020 and the NBA continues to diversify but often at the expense of the same Black men that are the lifeline of the league. The NBA currently has just one Black team president, Toronto’s Masai Ujiri.
However, Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas, the first Latino general manager in the NBA, is now a team president. Indian-American Sachin Gupta enters his first season as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Timberwolves. And Raptors GM Bobby Webster is Asian.
On the bright side, the number of African-American general managers has increased to seven with the Chicago Bulls’ hiring of former 76ers senior vice president of personnel Marc Eversley to become their new GM. Eversley replaces long -time GM Gar Forman, who played a major part in personnel decisions since his hiring in 2009.
Sixers assistant GM Marc Eversley has agreed to a deal to become the Chicago Bulls new general manager, league sources tell ESPN. Eversley will join EVP of Basketball Operations Arturas Karnisovas to lead a reshaped front office.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 27, 2020
It’s a historic hire (It seems like we say this every time a Black person gets a front office job).
Chicago Bulls Hire Marc Eversley
The London native will become the first Black general manager in the 54-year history of the Chicago Bulls franchise. A history that is embedded in championships, racial undertones, and player-front office riffs.
Eversley will be working alongside Arturas Karnisovas, the new head of basketball operations.
Eversley is from an unconventional background, especially for an African-American GM. Most Black front office personnel are former players. Eversley is a people’s person who started out spending 10 years grinding at Nike and was proficient in establishing relationships with players around the league.
It was a job that demanded building relationships with a player, his agent, and anyone associated with the athlete’s inner circle.
Former Raptors exec Bryan Colangelo hired Eversley away from Nike in 2006. First as a player development assistant and then as assistant general manager and vice president of college scouting. Eversley became the vice president of college scouting for the Washington Wizards in 2013 before heading to Philadelphia in 2016, where he joined a squad that was just reaping the benefits of “The Process”.
He was again hired by Bryan Colangelo as vice president of player personnel and was given a senior title in 2018 after Colangelo was fired for his infamous Twitter burner account scandal
More Evidence Of NBA Culture Shift?
Gar Foreman, the previous GM and a Jerry Kraus disciple lacked some of the same “people” skills that plagued Krause throughout his tenure with the Dynasty Bulls and created riffs between the front office and their superstar players, as seen in the current ESPN documentary The Last Dance.
Eversley certainly won’t have that problem, and hopefully, he represents a growing trend.
Eight out of 30 teams with Black GMs? That’s just 26.6 percent of the total jobs. In a league that according to the TIDES annual NBA Racial and Gender Report Card (2019), is 81.9 percent, people of color, the number of African-American front office executives continues to be underrepresented.
And as long as that’s the case, the culture of all-white ownership, leadership, and Commissioners will continue to create an oppressive working relationship, regardless of how individual player salaries balloon.
NBA EXCLUSIVE BLACK GM FRATERNITY
Spurs Gm Brian Wright hasn’t even gotten a full season under his belt and word is he’s on the hot seat.
James Jones has a challenging job trying to get a young Phoenix squad to be competitive in a loaded Western Conference.
Koby Altman has his work cut out for him in post-Lebron Cleveland, where the head coaching selection of John Beilein was a disaster.
Trajan Langdon is part of a new-look front office for the New Orleans Pelicans, where Dell Demps was fired after a decade at the helm and Swin Cash made a huge splash for diversity when she was named VP of Basketball Operations/Team Development.
Scott Perry has been the Knicks GM since 2017. Perry is expected to be a part of some front-office maneuvering now that Leon Rose has been hired and Allan Houston is waiting in the wings.
Elton Brand made an immediate splash when he joined Philly in 2018, pulling off trades for Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler and continuing to navigate a tricky NBA landscape and find the perfect complements to Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Former NBA player Calvin Booth was hired in April to take over as GM of the Denver Nuggets after three years as an assistant GM.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 18, 2020
As long as we can count the number of Black people in these positions on our hands, the perception will remain that the white people own and manage the plantation and the players work it. They are high-priced labor to the billionaire owners, but make a pretty penny in comparison to the rest of the working world.
As long as that disparity remains, African-Americans will always be unfairly viewed as inferior in some way. Unless you believe the fallacy that Blacks are less capable, how can you disagree?
That thought process becomes generational.
Ujiri getting hemmed up by the police while attempting to join the celebration of a Raptor’s World Championship that he orchestrated, tells you everything you need to know about the perception of the common man towards African-Americans.
Cop punched and pushed Raptors GM Masai Ujiri after the game more to be found out tomorrow morning pic.twitter.com/dyiJ05UXqM
— Mitch Moore (@MitchMooreNBA) June 14, 2019
Chicago has finally entered the 21st century and ownership understands that a progressive cultural approach to front office construction is needed. A youth infusion, with new ideas and new strategies in dealing with today’s empowered player.
However, across the league, change is slower developing and a disturbing overall lack of minority executives still remains.