Golden State Warriors Front Office: A Reflection Of Cultural Divides? (Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle)
The NBA has come a long way in terms of bridging the cultural gap across nations. We saw this last October 2013 as part of the NBA’s Global Games. We’ve seen it on the court where blacks playing with whites is, thankfully, not even a discussion in this day and age. Not too long ago, European basketball players entered the scene and anywhere between 60 to 80 players out of standard rosters of 15 players on each of the 30 NBA teams, or 450 total players, is commonplace.
But is there a ways to go? Is the recent firing of Mark Jackson by the Golden State Warriors‘ front office, namely owner Joe Lacob and general manager Bob Myers a reflection that there still exists a cultural divide? Is the courtship of Steve Kerr, someone who has reportedly known Lacob for twenty years, a step back in terms of relying on the so-called “Good ‘Ol Boy Network”?
If the NBA is basketball operating at its peak of “business”, is it a good thing or a bad thing for managers to hire outside of its “comfort zone”?
Here’s a look at that topic touched on recently by NBA and Warriors beatwriters:
Stephen A. Smith of ESPN.com:
Instead, one must ask, why Kerr? Does anyone know if he can coach? Not necessarily for the Knicks’ job, but more so for the several jobs apparently at his disposal?
“I’ve known him for 20 years,” Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob said of Kerr, almost immediately following Jackson’s firing. “I think very highly of him as an individual — a great human being as well as a great basketball mind and a great pedigree.”
But since when were those personal characteristics enough to qualify someone with zero experience at any level for multiple head-coaching gigs?
Jacob Greenberg of TheDissNBA.com:
One of the confounding factors when discussing the ways race influences the NBA is that the outmoded hierarchy of racial superiority is inverted and flipped on its head, and we’re not quite sure what to do about that. Generally speaking, among racist discourse, it is assumed that the white person is blessed with intelligence and capabilities that their non-white counterparts aren’t, and that the more talented white person must be relied upon to pull other “less-talented” people — that is, people of color — up from their destitute positions. This simply is not the case in the NBA: there are very few white superstars, and by and large, they do not win enough to be thought of as “top-shelf” players. Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki exists as exceptions to the rule; most of the time, talented white players become part of the larger cause, joining other role players in supporting a cause being led by a non-white person. As many have pointed out, however, coaching is a realm where white supremacy can be maintained and perpetuated. It is an area where the larger systems at play can continue to have a totalizing effect; arranging the races into a hierarchy, and maintaining old structures of racial superiority even though the salaries, and the presence of non-whiteness, indicates a much rosier, color-blind picture.
Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Mark Jackson is the current poster dude for the disease of owner impatience, which some say afflicts black coaches more than white ones.
Those who see racism in the Warriors’ move note that a major complaint Joe Lacob had about Jackson, the old point guard, was that he wasn’t a smart enough tactician/strategist. In fairness to Lacob, he never told Jackson, “Bring in a white professor to help you with the X’s and O’s.”
Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group:
Maybe I’m just a black man rambling. Maybe we’ve reached the point where you can’t bring up race unless a mixed-race woman goes rogue with her voice recorder app. Or maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. By Mark Jackson and Warriors management.
Any time you are dealing with people, you are dealing with their culture and background, their perspective of the world, their past experiences, every thing that makes them. It is one of the beauties of diversity. It is counterproductive to exclude race and culture elements from your dealings. It is also difficult to include those elements, which is why the easy route is to choose from your circle of connections.
Again, I don’t believe Jackson’s race was considered when he was fired. I believe the stability of the Warriors had brewing was worthy of keeping Jackson around. But I understand the reasons behind his firing, even if I don’t think they were enough to warrant his demise or he should’ve gotten more time to work it out and correct his flaws.
At the same time, I reject these notions that race and culture had NOTHING to do with anything. But I do think the racial and cultural divide played a part in the divide that led to his demise. That’s not just on Warriors management, though they have more power, but it’s also on Jackson. And it’s on us if we act like it doesn’t exist.
Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Instead this was an off the court decision. Everything about Jackson was under scrutiny, which includes his very public persona as a religious man. It was probably not at the top of the list, but was probably on the list. I don’t know if Jackson’s strong, strong religious beliefs alienated anyone in the building. I’ve heard that the team wasn’t happy that he made it a priority to get back to his LA-based church to preach as often as possible. I’ve heard that he occasionally referred to individuals he didn’t like as “the devil.” And I found it weird to be sitting in a press conference next to a young woman who kept trying to get Jackson’s attention by calling him “pastor.”