Recently, three NBA head coaching jobs went to African Americans. Jason Kidd is to lead the Dallas Mavericks, Ime Udoka will coach the Boston Celtics and Chauncey Billups will be at the helm of the Portland Trailblazers.
This shows how the NBA is attempting to resolve its racial disparities in a predominantly Black league.
At the end of the regular season this year, seven out of 30 NBA teams had Black head coaches. In the NBA, 74.8 percent of the players identify as Black, and 81.9 percent consider themselves as people of color. In 2019, 18.1 percent of NBA players identify as white.
Kidd had two stints with the Mavericks as a player, 1994-1996 and from 2008-2012. He helped the franchise win their only championship during the 2010-2011 season. That was the last season the Mavs won a Playoffs series.
Kidd brings five years of coaching experience with him to Dallas after coaching the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them win the 2020 NBA Championship.
“Dallas has meant so much to me as a player and I want to thank Mark Cuban for the opportunity to return as a head coach,” Kidd said. “I am excited to get to work with this young, hungry and incredibly talented team and to continue to build a winning legacy for the Mavericks organization.”
Billups spent 17 years playing for the NBA and was the 2004 Finals MVP, helping the Detroit Pistons win a championship. Also known as “Mr. Big Shot,” Billups competed for two stints with both the Denver Nuggets and the Pistons. Billups played for five other teams, including the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks.
“Our two best players are guards like [Billups]. He can relate to them,” said Blazer’s president of basketball operations Neil Olshay. “He’s got a presence to hold guys accountable.”
During his introductory press conference, Billups noted how the Trailblazers must focus on defense to be more competitive.
“It’s a unique franchise I played against for so long,” he said. “I’m happy to be on the other side with these great fans and also happy to be a part of Rip City and the sponsors.”
Udoka spent the last nine seasons being an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets. As a player in the NBA, he played for five different teams, including the Lakers, Spurs, and Trailblazers. Udoka is the first NBA head coach of African origin; his father, Vitalis Udoka, is a Nigeria native.
Udoka is the long-time spouse of Nia Long, an actress who starred in several movies and TV shows, including “Friday,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Boyz n the Hood,” and “The Best Man.”
The Celtics front office praised Udoka for his work ethic, his empathy and care for players, and his ability to teach. Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens called him an “authentic super-person.”
“He has a great basketball acumen, he’s got a great understanding,” Stevens said. “It’s his authenticity, his ability to be tough and yet very warm … that really stood out as separating him throughout this process.”
Udoka has already spoken with several players and called Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum “foundational young pillars.” Udoka desires to have “more team basketball,” after pointing out that the Celtics were 27th in the league in assists this past season.
“I’m all about the players in the organization and having that unity and selflessness with our organization,” Udoka said. “We’ll have a defensive mentality going in and I’d like to try to bring the dog out in guys and we got some young dogs here.”