The Bulls have conducted five interviews for a new head of basketball operations this week. Notably, whichever of those candidates the hire is will be just the franchise's third lead executive since Jerry Reinsdorf purchased the team in 1985.
And notably, every candidate but one — Bobby Webster, whose mother is Japanese-American — has been white.
The latter fact has sparked frustration around the league, according to reporting by Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (ESPN). Spears cited multiple league sources — many of them black executives who spoke under the condition of anonymity — in a story that paints a picture of a hiring process that has neglected a large swath of candidates.
Spears reported (via league sources) that "Bulls COO and president Michael Reinsdorf, who has been conducting virtual interviews, had not spoken to any black potential candidates as of Wednesday morning."
One quote, from former Nets executive and current ESPN NBA Insider Bobby Marks (who is white), rings especially strong. From The Undefeated:
“It’s an embarrassment that the Bulls elected not to interview a minority candidate in their search for a new head of basketball operations,” Marks said. “You will never know what you have or could have hired, unless you sit down with them and have a face-to-face conversation.”
The NFL has a provision intended to protect against biased hiring process (whether consciously or subconsciuosly) called the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for front office positions.
The NBA has no such policy in spite of 75% of the league's athletes being black. Spears notes that there are currently six black assistant GMs in the NBA — one, Michael Finley of the Dallas Mavericks, is a Chicago native, and just last week, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Mike Fisher of Sports Illustrated Finley would "be amazing" for the Bulls gig.
Bulls here is a list of qualified black assistant GMs in a league 75% black: Chicago's own Michael Finley, Marc Eversely, Mark Hughes, Gerald Madkins, Milt Newton, Jeff Peterson, Troy Weaver, Bryson Graham, Joe Branch & Malik Rose. BTW, Newton also former GM with top-record Bucks— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) April 8, 2020
But none of their names have cropped up at any point in the search process, all while the Bulls reportedly spoke to GMs with fraught histories. Former Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry, remember, took an extended leave of absence and eventually resigned after audio surfaced of him reading a racist scouting report about Luol Deng. Wes Wilcox — also a former GM of the Hawks — in 2017 was disciplined by the team for making a racially charged joke at a season ticket holder event. Bryan Colangelo famously left his station as president of basketball operations/general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers after a report by The Ringer emerged alleging that he operated multiple burner Twitter accounts that denigrated 76ers players. News surfaced of all three interviewing for the Bulls' lead executive role on Wednesday.
Friendly reminder Danny Ferry used terrible African stereotypes to disparage Luol Deng, a former Bull and great person.— DeAntae Prince (@DeAntae) April 8, 2020
"He has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out the back.” https://t.co/tJo9htnz47
Denver Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas has emerged as a frontrunner for the Bulls' front office gig, and no one is questioning his worthiness. But Spears' report is telling that a league that often touts its commitment to diversity still has a long way to go.