The Timberwolves’ coaching search – which led to them bypassing Minnesota lead assistant David Vanterpool (who’s Black) for Raptors assistant Chris Finch (who’s white) – left plenty of room for scrutiny.
And the NBA coaches’ union will scrutinize.
Statement from NBCA President Coach Rick Carlisle & NBCA Executive Director David Fogel on NBA Head Coach Hiring Processes
February 24, 2021
NEW YORK, February 24, 2021 – It’s always bittersweet when one coach is fired and another is hired. But this is not about individual coaches. We would be remiss not to acknowledge a deeper concern and level of disappointment with the Minnesota head coach hiring process.
The NBCA understands and respects each organization’s right to hire and fire whomever and whenever it chooses. But it is also our responsibility to point out when an organization fails to conduct a thorough and transparent search of candidates from a wide range of diverse backgrounds.
During this past off-season, we saw many NBA head coaching vacancies where teams led searches that were both diverse and transparent. This must be the standard. We must establish a level playing field and equal access to opportunity for all coaching candidates.
The NBCA has been working closely with the League Office on a wide range of initiatives that will improve future coaching searches. In partnership with the NBA, we look forward to sharing details in the weeks to come.
Again, Minnesota’s process warrants scrutiny.
This unprecedented statement is somewhat odd, though. It’s tough to believe the NBCA would’ve criticized the Timberwolves for simply promoting Vanterpool to interim head coach.
But interim coaching searches are usually the least “thorough and transparent ” coaching searches. Teams are expected just to promote their top assistant when firing the head coach during a season.
Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, teams install a front-office executive or lower-ranking assistant as coach. The Phoenix Suns – when firing John MacLeod in 1986-87 – even hired outsider Dick Van Arsdale, who’d been doing TV work, as interim coach.
Maybe interim searches matter less because it’s just an interim position. But one of the biggest obstacles minority coaches face is decisionmakers hiring only coaches with whom they’re already familiar. Every search – even for an interim coach – could be an opportunity for someone to make an impression.
Perhaps, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Black coaches have faced disadvantages for a long time.
Ultimately, this is a toothless statement designed to further a conversation worth having. The NBCA’s points should be considered, but let’s not overreact to this press release.
The future initiatives alluded to at the end, though? Those could be far more consequential.