Throughout the Boston Celtics’ illustrious 75-year history, there have been plenty of white coaches at the helm, but a surprising number of Black coaches have also been handed the keys to the franchise.
From 1966-1969, Celtics legend and civil rights icon Bill Russell served as both player and coach, collecting a pair of championships along the way. Tom “Satch” Sanders would come along shortly thereafter in 1978. There’s also K.C. Jones, who ran the show from 1983-1988 and won a pair of championships himself with a little help from some guy named Larry Bird and his accomplice, Kevin McHale. M.L. Carr (1995–1997) and Doc Rivers (2004–2013) would soon follow suit; and between the two of them, collect an additional Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2008. Yet for some inexplicable reason, despite the Celtics’ rich history of decorated Black coaches, ESPN analyst Jay Williams forgot all of this shit when he congratulated the Celtics latest coaching hire, former Brooklyn Nets assistant Ime Udoka.
“The first head coach of color for the @Celtics,” Williams wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “And even more importantly, he is one talented individual who has paid his dues.”
The irony of congratulating Udoka for “paying his dues,” while completely ignoring the other five Black coaches in Boston who preceded him—and did the exact same thing prior to being hired—wasn’t lost on me or the rest of Blue Ivy’s internet. So as Twitter is prone to do, they were kind enough to enlighten the former No. 2 overall draft pick on all of the beautifully Black history that Williams apparently missed in February.
Look, we all have memory lapses. Hell, I can’t even tell you what I had for lunch yesterday. So I’m sure there’s a perfectly fine explanation for why a man whose literal job is to relay this information just completely—
“As it relates to the Boston Celtics tweet that came from my account a couple of hours ago…I did not post that & my passcode has now been changed,” Williams wrote in a tweet that I hope to God he deletes, too.
The cover-up is always worse than the crime (how dare anyone accuse J-Will of lying!), and Twitter jumped down his throat for that, too.
Prior to hiring Udoka, there were reports that Boston was hell-bent on hiring a Black candidate.
From USA Today:
As Brad Stevens and company narrow down their list of top candidates to interview for the vacant head coach position, pinpointing the type of candidate and coach you want to lead your franchise is crucial.
For these potential candidates to replace Stevens, three preferences have become clear in Boston’s search: hire a coach who can relate to players, has playing experience, and is a person of color.
Thankfully, the Celtics kept their word. Because as Charles Barkley noted recently on TNT’s Inside the NBA, watching the same underwhelming white coaches get passed around and recycled every offseason, while qualified Black candidates are relegated to scouting or assistant duties, is equal parts insulting and infuriating. Especially when three of the seven Black coaches in the entire league are all currently in the conference finals. (Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, and Atlanta Hawks interim head coach Nate McMillan.)
“We need more Black coaches,” Barkley said. “We need more Black front office people. To have a league that’s really, pretty much 80 percent Black and only have seven out of […] 30 [head coaches]…”
I feel you, Chuck. It’s some bullshit. And thankfully, that number now sits at eight.
Congrats to Ime Udoka on becoming the sixth Black coach in Boston Celtics history, and if anybody sees Jay Williams, you may wanna school him on the history of Black coaches in the same league he once played for.