The Brooklyn Nets announced on Thursday the hiring of NBA legend Steve Nash as the 23rd head coach in franchise history. This move drew praise from some, but former New York Knicks star Charles Oakley had some choice words. He questioned the hiring due to Nash's lack of experience and called for more Black coaches in the league.
The Dancing With the Stars contestant made the comments to TMZ and did not hold back. He said that he "never knew" that Nash wanted to coach and that it's how the world is. Oakley explained that people hire their friends and that "somebody must believe in Steve Nash." However, he said that there are a lot of qualified coaches that are waiting for jobs.
"Mark Jackson, Pete Myers and Jason Kidd — a lot of Black guys been waiting for jobs, but this guy comes out of the blue," Oakley told TMZ. "That goes to show you we're still behind the 8 ball. That's what we're trying to fight for, equal opportunity. Hopefully, We can get more Black coaches in the NBA because it's a Black league. We should have more Black coaches. More Black owners and GMs."
According to ESPN, 81.9% of players in the 2018-19 NBA season were people of color. This was an increase from the previous season's total (80.7%). The same report said that 33% of the head coaches in the NBA were people of color. There are now five Black coaches in the NBA as the playoffs continue, and four teams are without coaches.
Oakley was not the only prominent personality to criticize the hiring of Nash in recent days. ESPN host Stephen A. Smith took a very strong approach during an episode of First Take. He first praised Nash's career as a player and said that the Nets head coach is loved by a "whole bunch of people" around the league. However, Smith quickly changed his tone and expressed a strong opinion about why Nash got the job.
"Ladies and gentlemen, there's no way around it: This is white privilege," Smith proclaimed. "This does not happen for a Black man. No experience on any level as a coach and you get the Brooklyn Nets job? Sometimes, you just want to scream — want to scream to the high heavens: How the hell is this always happening for somebody else other than us? Why is it that we have to be twice as good to get half as much?"
While Smith strongly criticized Nash's hiring, he did not mention the other coaches that got jobs without any coaching experience. This includes Jason Kidd, who landed the Nets job in 2013 only nine days after retiring as a player. Another example surfaced when the New York Knicks hired Derek Fisher less than two weeks after he retired as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.