The Warriors fired Mark Jackson, because he didn’t fit.
They hired Steve Kerr, because he did.
I believe both those moves were made without any malicious intent and without considering race. But that doesn’t mean race didn’t play a factor.
Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group and David Aldridge of NBA.com have already written thoughtfully about the role of race in the firing of Jackson, who is black. Given how the Warriors and Kerr, who is white, have discussed their courtship, the issue should not fade silently into the background without further consideration.
Warriors owner Joe Lacob, who is white, via Sam Amick of USA Today:
“I knew him through friends — and through golf, quite frankly,” Lacob said of Kerr. “I’ve been on golf trips with Steve before, so I know him socially for many years. He’s best friends with one of my best friends and some other people, so I’ve known him, but not necessarily that close or that professionally as has been portrayed.
“He is certainly somebody who we have always liked, sort of a great, intelligent guy. So he was on our list, and when we decided to make a change he was on our short list of people who we wanted to talk to.”
And I’ve known Joe actually a long time through a mutual friend, a venture capitalist in the Bay Area. So we’ve been on golf trips together.
The familiarity for sure was helpful and it helped everybody relax and just sort of… be themselves.
This is how racism manifests itself.
What percentage of black families relative to white families have opportunities to belong to the type of golf clubs Lacob belongs to and plays at?
For a long time in America, country-club membership was exclusive and limited by ethnicity. Even as those walls are falling as society becomes more tolerant, that past racism still lingers as all clubs tend to attract members with previous connections, and those connections can trickle down generations.
There’s also the issue of wealth, a requirement for access to the nation’s top golf courses. Through discrimination, blacks have been denied access to housing, schools and jobs — opportunities to accumulate wealth. Without that in, blacks have fewer opportunities to make impressions on those, like Lacob, in position of power.
Personal connections matter. There’s no denying that. Kerr’s hiring proves it.
Kerr might be incredibly qualified and absolutely worthy of the job. I’m not suggesting otherwise. But his prior relationship with Lacob got his foot in the door and helped him rise to the top of the search.
When there are multiple qualified candidates, those connections matter. Kerr had a tiebreaker other candidates like Lionel Hollins did not.
There’s no easy solution. Lacob is entitled to have a coach he’s comfortable with.
Perhaps, the best solution is introspection during situations like this – Lacob consciously evaluating whether factors, even ones out of his control, have led to bias due to race. That would help ensure the Warriors have the “best” coach, whatever that means to Lacob.
Maybe that happened here. I’m not privy to Lacob’s internal dialogue.
But for Lacob to wantonly discuss his and Kerr’s friendship through golf suggests it didn’t.