NBA Commissioner Adam Silver breathed a sigh of relief as an unpredictable season just ended. He’s already looking ahead, as six teams exit the bubble without a head coach. The New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers, Indiana Pacers, and Philadelphia 76ers will spend the offseason trying to fill the coveted openings.
A vast array of qualified candidates will apply for the openings. And the issue of racial equality will undoubtedly be a hot topic. The NBA’s fan base consists of the highest percentage of Black viewers in all of the pro sports. In sharp contrast, only five of the 30 NBA head coaches are Black. Amidst the current Black Lives Matter protests, this statistic is unacceptable.
The Rooney Rule
As The Undefeated details, during the NBA Finals media address, Silver stated:
“We have six openings right now. We’re in discussions with all of those teams about making sure there’s a diverse slate of candidates. We’ve looked at what might be an equivalent to a Rooney-type rule in the NBA, and I’m not sure it makes sense. I’m open-minded if there are other ways to address it.”
Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule got its start in the NFL. The policy states that league teams are required to interview ethnic-minority candidates. It applies to available head coaching and senior football operation positions. Unlike affirmative action, there is no hiring quota, and minorities don’t receive preference.
Proposed by Dan Rooney, former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the purpose of the rule was to make sure black coaches got the chance to interview for high-level coaching positions. Statistics showed that black men were less likely to be hired as a head coach, despite their successful track record. Currently, the NFL only has three African-American head coaches, the same amount that existed when the rule was enacted.
Silver has expressed that the NBA can do better in their hiring practices. With six head coach positions up for grabs, he was quick to point out, “I know we can do better, and I think we will do better.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver wants to avoid the Rooney Rule
Silver made it clear that he wants to avoid implementing a Rooney Rule for coaching hires. He stated that he doesn’t want to operate a league where “the commissioner is dictating to a team who they should or shouldn’t hire.”
In a recent interview, Silver told ESPN that the NBA is committed to standing for social justice and racial equality. He says that philosophy is part of the DNA of the league. Many people think not enough is being done to fill head staffing roles with minorities, especially those of color. Silver would like to avoid using a Rooney Rule type of system and hopes that it all will just work itself out naturally.
Does the NBA need a Rooney Rule?
More than any other professional sporting league in America, the NBA has developed a reputation for being the most racially conscious. Silver took over as commissioner in 2014, and since that time has been aware and very outspoken about racial inequality.
The hiring practices of the NBA came into the spotlight with the recent hiring of Steve Nash as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. With no coaching experience, an ESPN commentator referred to his getting the position as “white privilege.” Jacque Vaughn, a Black man and interim coach of the team, was the obvious choice to fill the role, yet was overlooked.
Despite this glaring oversight, there has been some progress. The Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, and Detroit Pistons recently hired Black men as their general managers. Long-time coaching legend Doc Rivers is rumored to be taking over as head coach for the 76ers. Hopefully, this is an indication that people of color will start to have a real shot at an NBA head coaching position without the need for the Rooney Rule.