DALLAS — Doc Rivers loves talking about his hometown Chicago Bears. He visits frequently with NFL coaches, even adopting the “coordinator” approach for the defensive end of the floor after spending time with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
So naturally, the Sixers’ coach has been following the lawsuit filed earlier this week by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, which alleges racially discriminatory hiring practices in the league.
“It’s just a shame that that’s a discussion still,” Rivers told The Inquirer before the Sixers’ 107-98 loss to the Mavericks on Friday night. “I always say, ‘Last to get it, first to go’ a lot. I’m going to follow [the lawsuit] and just wait and see where it goes.”
Flores alleged he went through a “sham” interview process with the New York Giants because they already knew they were going to hire Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll for their head-coaching position. That has sparked discussion about the effectiveness of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which now requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside their organization in what was designed as an effort to broaden the hiring pool and increase opportunity.
“It clearly doesn’t help,” Rivers said of the Rooney Rule. “I think the gesture, obviously, they were trying to do the right thing. But there has to be change, and I don’t have the solution.”
ESPN on Saturday obtained a memo sent from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to team chief executives and club presidents in response to Flores’ lawsuit stating that “racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values. We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.”
The lawsuit also highlights the stark discrepancy between the head coaches leading teams in the NFL and in the NBA.
Mike Tomlin, who has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach since 2007, is the only Black coach in the NFL with three jobs still vacant as of Friday: the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, and New Orleans Saints. The NBA, meanwhile, has 13 Black coaches. Six of those were hired during last offseason’s hiring cycle — Boston’s Ime Udoka, Orlando’s Jamahl Mosley, Dallas’ Jason Kidd, New Orleans’ Willie Green, Portland’s Chauncey Billups, and Washington’s Wes Unseld Jr. — while Atlanta’s Nate McMillan was retained after taking over for Lloyd Pierce in the middle of the 2020-21 season.
Last weekend, before news broke about the Flores lawsuit, Sacramento Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry commended that progress. Gentry, who has been a head and assistant coach in the league for more than 30 years, remembers a time when there was a shortage of Black coaches in the league. Billups, one of this season’s first-time head coaches, added to the praise in the aftermath of the Flores lawsuit, saying the NBA is “light-years ahead of where any other league is.”
“I’m really proud of it,” Billups said Wednesday. “And I think a lot of it has to do with our players and our union. They’ve been pretty aggressive about what needs to happen.”
Added Gentry: “If you look at what is happening with Phoenix and what Monty [Williams] has done there, when you look at Cleveland and what J.B. [Bickerstaff] has done there and you look at some of the other situations. … They’ve proven that, if given the opportunity, they can more than do the job.”
When asked before Friday’s game about the lawsuit, Kidd acknowledged that he had only read headlines but that “it just sounds like it’s not a good situation, and hopefully the NFL will find a way to fix it.” He added that increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion in sports leagues should not just pertain to Black coaches, but to all marginalized groups.
An example, Kidd said, is that “there will be a woman NBA head coach” someday.
“It should be the person who fits the job, no matter skin or gender,” Kidd said. “And I think the NBA does a great job of leading that charge.”