Today on First Take, Stephen A Smith apparently (I don’t watch that show, you shouldn’t either) expressed his feelings about Steve Kerr’s coaching candidacy, and how it is being impacted by his race. Smith later ranted about the topic on his radio show with Ryan Ruocco on ESPN Radio, which I did listen to. Stephen A. believes that Kerr is getting the “pick of the litter,” with the ability to choose a high profile opening of his choosing, and that this has never and probably would never happen for a black candidate. He made some valid points, but like Ruocco I just can’t agree with Stephen A.
The problem with Stephen A.’s logic, like Ruocco tried explaining to him, is that this is a nearly unprecedented circumstance for a candidate of any race. Maybe someone can help me out here, but I cannot remember a time when a candidate with zero coaching experience was immediately in such high demand. This hasn’t happened with a white candidate any more than is has with a black one. There are several theories as to why Kerr’s market may look as it does:
-Kerr has been publicly linked to Phil Jackson, and if an 11 time world champion endorses you, you become that much more attractive.
– Rare is it that multiple coaching jobs of such high profile as New York, Los Angeles, and Golden State become available in the same off-season. Nothing against cities like Milwaukee or Minneapolis, but when’s the last time someone left their cushy broadcasting gig for a job in one of those locations? If you’re going to do it, it will probably be in one of those glamorous locales.
-Kerr may not have coaching experience, but he has significant experience in the industry having served as General Manager of the Phoenix Suns, and as a lead broadcaster for nationally televised games with TNT for years. This is not an anonymous coaching candidate.
-Kerr also made his coaching intentions publicly known weeks ago, unlike someone like Jason Kidd who popped up out of the blue.
-Once the hype started in a place like New York, it grew and has taken on a life of its own. When teams find out about a hot candidate that another team likes, it’s not surprising that they should want to steal that person while they can.
Sure there are counter arguments to be made, as well as there are likely more viable theories. For instance Brian Shaw, who was mentioned in Stephen and Ryan’s conversation, was a longtime assistant of Phil Jackson’s and did not get a head coaching gig right away. But the recent trend that has been growing for several years in sports, not just basketball, is to hire coaches in situations that were deemed unconventional in the past. Younger, more analytically minded coaches have been getting hired without experience, almost as if to keep up with the trend. The dirty work that has gone into assistant coaching just isn’t rewarded as much as it used to be. Mike Matheny and Robin Ventura are recent baseball examples, and Jason Kidd and recently fired Mark Jackson are recent basketball ones. Stephen A. also used Mark Jackson as en example, discussing how he tried to get into coaching for several years before he landed the Warriors job. Well, Stephen A., maybe there’s just something about Mark Jackson (not his color) that makes people not want to work with him. He did just get fired today despite leading his team to consecutive playoff berths, with well documented drama occurring in that organization. (Links Below)
What Kerr has going for him is a perfect storm. He’s a charismatic, popular figure, endorsed by the sport’s greatest coach, at a time he feels ready to become a head coach. How can Stephen A. just assume the same wouldn’t happen for Derek Fisher, or Reggie Miller (just examples) if the factors were the same? I understand race plays a factor in many aspects when it shouldn’t, but I honestly view Kerr’s situation as an isolated, unprecedented situation that could happen to anyone of any color if the stars aligned the same way.