The NBA Finals are here! Game one started off with an exhilarating comeback from the Boston Celtics against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth quarter.
The coach on the Celtics sideline, Ime Udoka, is leading the way in a surge of new Black head coaches leading NBA franchises.
Udoka’s hiring before the 2021 season, was the start of a monumental year for the NBA, which is also celebrating its 75-year anniversary. Just in the last year, eight head coaching vacancies have been filled by Black candidates and for the first time in the league’s 75-year history, 50 percent of the head coaches are Black, that’s 15 out of 30.
Something other leagues, especially the NFL, cannot say for themselves.
Before last season the seven coaches who had a job were Detroit’s Dwane Casey, Phoenix’s Monty Williams, Cleveland’s J.B. Bickerstaff, Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Tyronn Lue, Houston’s Stephen Silas and Atlanta’s Nate McMillan.
Since then they have been joined by Boston’s Udoka, Portland’s Chauncey Billups, Dallas’ Jason Kidd, Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley, Washington’s Wes Unseld Jr., New Orleans’ Willie Green, Sacramento’s Mike Brown (who is currently an assistant coach for the Warriors) and most recently, the Los Angeles Lakers hired Darvin Ham.
Many of those names, including Udoka, who is having instant success with the Celtics, had been passed up for years before getting an opportunity to be a head coach. After his playing career, Udoka was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs for seven years, and the Philadelphia Sixers and the Brooklyn Nets for one season each.
Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said, according to the Associated Press, “I don’t understand what took so long, to be honest.”
The first time a Black person head coached an NBA team was in 1966, when Bill Russell, an 11-time NBA champion, accepted the position as a player-coach of the Celtics, winning a championship in the 1966-1967 season.