LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe the league needs to institute a “Rooney Rule” to create more diversity in the league’s head-coaching ranks, but that the league has talked to all six teams with current head-coaching openings about ensuring they look at a variety of candidates.
“The answer is ultimately yes to, ‘Should the teams be able to hire who they want?’ I don’t see a way to operate a league where the league office, the commissioner, is dictating to a team who they should or shouldn’t hire or who they should or shouldn’t fire, frankly,” Silver said Wednesday night at his annual news conference ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Lakers. “That’s the other side of the coin.
“Having said that, I know we can do better. 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. There is a certain natural ebb and flow to the hiring and firing, frankly, of coaches, but the number is too low right now. And again, I think we should — let’s talk again after we fill these six positions and see where we are, because I know we can do better, and I think we will do better.”
The NFL’s Rooney Rule requires teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.
There have been three Black head coaches — Doc Rivers (LA Clippers), Nate McMillan (Indiana Pacers) and Alvin Gentry (New Orleans Pelicans) — fired this offseason. Another, Jacque Vaughn, was passed over to be the permanent head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in favor of Steve Nash.
Of the jobs that have been filled so far, the Nets (Nash), New York Knicks (Tom Thibodeau) and Chicago Bulls (Billy Donovan) have hired white head coaches. There are currently only four Black head coaches in the NBA: J.B. Bickerstaff (Cleveland Cavaliers), Lloyd Pierce (Atlanta Hawks), Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns) and Dwane Casey (Detroit Pistons).
The six teams with job openings are the Clippers, Pacers, Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers. Rivers is a candidate to replace Brett Brown with the Sixers, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, as is Tyronn Lue.
As the NBA’s bubble at Walt Disney World Resort is winding down, Silver was also asked several questions about what lies ahead, beginning with when next season might begin.
Reiterating what he said recently, Silver said the expectation should be that next season won’t begin until sometime in early 2021. He also threw some cold water on the idea of the NBA permanently shifting its schedule into the summer months when asked about when the league might consider ending next season.
“The issue becomes, and the players have raised this, as well, in addition to the desire of many players to have some normalcy in the summer, they have families, kids,” Silver said. “[We are] trying to find the right balance. The question is when do we get back on cycle. And I think even though there’s been discussions about us potentially on a regular basis post-COVID playing well into the summer, I think we’re learning a little bit more about our television audience as we are experimenting, and part of it is fewer people are watching television in the summer, different competition, especially when you get into the fall with the NFL, college football and all that. So that’s all into the mix, as well.
“There is [also] the issue of the Olympics. I talked a little bit about that. But part of even factoring that as a consideration, it’s not absolutely clear what’s going to happen with the Olympics. But again, we have to strike the right balance there.”
But before the NBA can get that far, there is the matter of figuring out the league’s financial matters with the National Basketball Players Association to allow the offseason, and next season, to start on time.
Because of the complete disruption of the league due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there are lots of things that have to be sorted out, from setting the salary cap and luxury tax to determining whether the escrow (the money withheld from players’ salaries throughout the season) needs to be increased because of the reduced money that will be available.
Those negotiations are expected to begin in earnest between Silver and Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s executive director, after the season has concluded. Silver said he expects the two sides to be able to come to a resolution without the need for a work stoppage.
“I don’t have any expectations of labor issues, I think, in the way you’re suggesting it, meaning that we won’t be able to resolve them,” Silver said. “There’s no doubt there are issues on the table that need to be negotiated. I think it’s — we’ve managed to work through every other issue so far. I think we have a constructive relationship with them. We share all information. We look at our various business models together.
“So I think while no doubt there will be issues and there will be some difficult negotiations ahead, I fully expect we’ll work them out, as we always have.”
One part of figuring those things out is when the NBA is going to be able to have fans in attendance at its games again. Silver said when that can happen is going to rely on where the science leads things — but that a coronavirus vaccine isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for it happening.
“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite. My sense is that with rapid testing, if you — it may not be that we’ll have 19,000 people in the building, we’ll see, but that with appropriate protocols in terms of distancing and with advanced testing that you will be able to bring fans back into arenas.
“Again, it’s early days. You know, and many of these decisions … we also have to deal with state by state and in some cases city by city restrictions on how many people can gather as well. Again, I’m hopeful that based on what we’re learning, based on protocols, based on testing, we will be able to have games with fans next season prior to full distribution of a vaccine.”
Silver also said it was too early to tell what the situation would be for the Toronto Raptors with regard to the United States-Canadian border and the impact on how Toronto will be able to perform next season. The Raptors had to come to Florida early to hold training camp because of quarantine restrictions, and those could prove to be a complication for next season, as well.
The Toronto Blue Jays have played their home games in Buffalo because of restrictions on players traveling back and forth across the border from the U.S.
“It’s a good question, although there’s not a lot we can do about it,” Silver said. “It’s interesting, to Canada’s credit, they’ve approached this in a certain way, and it seems like they’ve found a fair balance between their health and safety considerations and their economic needs, and they’ve had an extraordinarily low case rate. And they’ve been extremely cautious sort of in their rules, and obviously baseball hasn’t played a single game there as a result.
“Obviously it’s one of those things that’s going to be outside of our control, and if — I know [Raptors owner] Larry [Tanenbaum] has had ongoing conversations, as has [team president] Masai Ujiri, with government officials in Canada to see how they’re going to be looking at things this fall, but it’s just too early to know. But we will obviously have to work with whatever rules we’re presented with there.”