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I realized yesterday that I spend my days pretty evenly split between politics and sports. Now that Joe Biden has been declared the President-Elect I figured I’m gonna take some time away from politics to recharge my batteries and focus on sports. Today I’m gonna discuss one of my least favorite parts of sports, and life in general: nepotism.
Even though black people make up 70% of the NFL and 80% of the NBA, coaches and owners in these sports are overwhelmingly white. This is due to to both socioeconomic factors and nepotism, which is the practice of providing opportunities to relatives or close family friends regardless of their qualifications for the position. For every Glenn Rivers there’s a Ryan Saunders, who got his start in coaching being an assistant to his father Flip for the Washington Wizards. While Mike Tomlin and Anthony Lynn have to fight and claw for every opportunity, the Stephen Belichick’s of the world get to join the well-oiled machine known as the New England Patriots because their father is also the head coach.
Two months ago, the Brooklyn Nets GM Sean Marks named Steve Nash as their new head coach for the upcoming season. The Nets made the playoffs this past season as the #7 seed under interim coach Jacque Vaughn, but that wasn’t enough for Vaughn to keep his job despite Nash having zero head coaching experience. Vaughn will remain with the Nets as an assistant coach and the Nets are also adding former Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni as an assistant. D’Antoni was the former Phoenix Suns head coach where he coached Marks, Nash and new Nets assistant Amare Stoudemire. I’m sensing a bit of a pattern here.
There’s nothing in American sports that prevents hiring of former players, friends, relatives or anything of the sort. These privileged individuals get to skip the line to one of the handful of the most prized positions in our country’s sporting system because of who they know, regardless of qualifications. The NFL does have the timid Rooney Rule which says that every team has to interview a minority coach but this is mostly just lip-service. How else do you explain Matt Patricia still having a job? The MLB has their own version of the Rooney Rule called the Selig Rule but it’s equally as meek as the Chicago White Sox proved by hiring Tony La Russa while not interviewing a single minority candidate. La Russa is a lifelong friend of White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, because of course he is.
In soccer, prospective coaches must obtain a series of badges and licenses in order to finally be able to coach professionals. Coaches must be coaching at various youth levels or non-professional teams while taking these courses in order to move up the ranks. Coaches are taught the main four aspects of coaching: technical, physical, social and psychological. As a result, nepotism is greatly reduced and coaches are rewarded with bigger, more high-profile positions because of their resume and not their father. Soccer also uses the systems of promotion and relegation to prevent teams from actively trying to lose games, but that’s another newsletter for another day.
If the NBA had a system similar to that of soccer, there’s no way that Steve Nash would be able to walk into the Nets head coaching vacancy. There’s also no way that Nash would be able to fill his coaching staff with former head coaches that could mask his deficiencies as a rookie coach while allowing him to take all of the credit (or blame) for the Nets success. The Nets would have had to hire a coach with an extensive resume of success to justify becoming one of the 30 head coaches in the top basketball league in the world. Coaching badges may remove one of the barriers that black coaches face when trying to reach the coaching summit. And if every coach in the NBA had earned the job, it would largely increase the level of play that we get to enjoy as fans.
What would Joe Judge do?