Aside from being a terrific basketball player, Boston Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown is a real one.
He’s been outspoken about social justice issues, such as the Breonna Taylor verdict and the NBA’s response to the officer-related shooting of Jacob Blake, and in an interview with Marc J. Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, he discussed the importance of diverse representation within the NBA’s coaching ranks.
This offseason, the league nearly doubled its percentage of Black head coaches (that number jumped from 23 percent to 43 percent) with the introduction of seven new Black head coaching hires: Wes Unseld Jr. with the Washington Wizards; Nate McMillan with the Atlanta Hawks; Jason Kidd with the Dallas Mavericks; Chauncey Billups with the Portland Trail Blazers; Willie Green with the New Orleans Pelicans; Jamahl Mosley with the Orlando Magic; and Ime Udoka with the Boston Celtics—who ESPN analyst Jay Williams falsely recognized as the first Black coach in the history of the franchise. (SPOILER WARNING: He’s actually the 6th.)
In speaking with The Undefeated, Brown expressed his excitement at this new era of representation at the NBA coaching level and revealed that after Brad Stevens stepped down from his coaching duties with the Celtics in June, Brown pushed for his replacement to be Black.
“They were on board with it,” he told The Undefeated. “They talked about it. It wasn’t like it was just about being African American. [Udoka is] more than qualified.”
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That he is.
Aside from his firsthand experience as an NBA player for seven seasons, prior to joining the Celtics, the 44-year-old served as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, the Philadelphia 76ers, and the Brooklyn Nets. And in 2014, he won his first NBA championship with the Spurs as a member of the coaching staff.
Thankfully, Udoka’s time is now, and Brown discussed why playing for a Black coach is critical to the advancement of professional sports.
“Whether it was because they were just trying to shut us up, or because they actually believed it was the right thing to do, it don’t matter to me,” he said. “That representation is important. And that’s giving people access and resources that they need and deserve to have, especially former players. They deserve to have a seat at the table too, especially in coaching positions, as well as in-office positions, ownership positions. Those are important as well, especially if they’re qualified.”
He continued, “That’s my argument. People may disagree, like, ‘They’re not qualified. They’re just getting the job because they’re African American.’ You’ve seen people say that in the media. And things like that. That’s some [bullshit]. There’s plenty of qualified African Americans and Black people that can do their job. And they deserve to have a seat at the table.”
He said what he said.
The NBA is finally coming around to understanding the importance of hiring Black head coaches. If only the NFL and other professional sports organizations could say the same.