New Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash isn’t sure that his hiring is an example of white privilege, which some prominent NBA voices have suggested.
“I have benefited from white privilege. Our society has a lot of ground to make up. I’m not saying that this position (that) was a factor, as far as white privilege being a factor in this position,” Nash told reporters Wednesday.
Nash was hired by the Nets last week, despite having no coaching experience and not true ties to the club. The Hall of Famer retired from the league in 2015 and has been a part-time consultant for the Golden State Warriors.
While working with the Warriors, Nash developed a relationship with current Nets’ star Kevin Durant. Nash also has a relationship with Brooklyn point guard Kyrie Irving. The two superstars are thought to have played a major role in bringing Nash to New York.
Nash was chosen over available Black coaches that have experience on the bench. Tyronn Lue is still an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Clippers, despite leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title in 2016 over the 73-win Warriors. Mark Jackson was also passed over, despite his New York roots and winning record as a head coach.
Jacques Vaughn had an impressive showing as Brooklyn’s interim head coach in the NBA’s bubble. Vaughn, another Black candidate, is back to being an assistant for the Nets.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made headlines in the immediate aftermath of the hire, claiming a Black coach with Nash’s level of experience—or lack thereof—wouldn’t be given this chance to coach a ready-made title contender in the top media market.
I have a message to those that feel I was wrong regarding Steve Nash's hiring. pic.twitter.com/Dfefg5C7Ff
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) September 4, 2020
Steven Nash also speaks on “white privilege” pic.twitter.com/j2VJPa2ZI0
— Talkin’ Nets (@TalkinNets) September 9, 2020
Some former NBA players have pushed back on this idea. Jason Kidd was hired by the Nets in 2013 to coach what many perceived to be a potential title contender. Kidd had no coaching experience when he was given the job and then left the position to be the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. Since Kidd, the Nets have had three Black head coaches.
“I am very sensitive to the cause and the goal. I’m not sure that this is an example that purely fits that conversation,” Nash said. “But I own it and understand why that’s important to talk about it and that we do need more diversity and more opportunity for African American coaches and staff in all capacities. This league was built through African American players and stars that have made this one of the greatest entertainment industries, businesses in sports and the world.”
The NBA has been at the forefront of the fight for racial justice this year. After weeks of demonstrations and calls for social justice, playoff games were postponed for three days as players staged a boycott after a Wisconsin police officer shot Jacob Blake.
Last month, Nets owners Joe Tsai and Clara Wu Tsai pledged $50 million to social justice and economic equality initiatives to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.