Just the other day, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver didn't sound like he was sold on a "Rooney Rule" such as what the NFL has to ensure minority candidates are included the interview process.
This is what he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:
In terms of specifically a Rooney Rule, to be honest, I’m not sure how effectively that works in the NFL. I do think we need to do more. I’m just not sure if it results in something that looks like a Rooney Rule or something more unique to the NBA.
Jerry Stackhouse, who has been an NBA assistant and led the Toronto Raptors' D-League affiliate to their first championship this year, already is thinking along those lines for himself.
"I don't mean for it to sound easy but this is kind of what I do. This is my life," said Stackhouse, who played 18 NBA seasons with eight different teams that inlcuded 2002-04 in Washington.
"Anything on the basketball court doesn't feel foreign to me at all, coaching, teaching, instruction. Knowing drill work with guys and getting out and playing still. I still enjoy that. I don't think there's enough us as far as African Americans in charge of budgets of teams, different things like that."
In the musical chairs that can be coaching and front-office roles, John Hammond left the Milwaukee Bucks to fill the GM role for the Orlando Magic; Travis Schlenk left the Golden State Warriors to take over as GM of the Atlanta Hawks.
Just as the game on the court has changed with the emphasis on small ball and de-emphasis on true centers who play with their backs to the basket, front-office roles have shifted, too.
The NBA has relied heavily on former players in key positions such as coaching, but more often front-office spots are going to younger people with backgrounds in analytics, many of whom are white, over people with playing experience.
Like any statistic, the numbers can be misused. Misinterpret what they mean or over or undervalue them and they can make a good situation bad or a bad situation worse. But even before the 2016-17 season began, this was the tone of conversation from The Undefeated when addressing analytics in terms of race and NBA front-office positions.
The gist: Black people don't do analytics. A discussion worthy of being had about how and why the numbers are dwindling in NBA front offices but based on a conclusion that's not true.
Just because a dozen guys in a barber shop don't know or care about it isn't a fair sample size no more than 50 "people" on Twitter feigning outrage over a topic makes that an accurate gauge of what actual readers care about. Analytics is as much of generational thing as it is a race thing. When I was talking via phone a few years ago to then-Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who is white, played from 1976-86 and even acquired multiple Larry O'Brien trophies during his tenure, he couldn't have come across more dismissive about metrics.
No, after a game is over, players in the locker room aren't debating points per 100 possessions, where they rank in pick-and-roll ballhandler efficiency or true shooting percentages. All of those discussions are held in front offices that see a cumulative tally over the course of time to determine what trends and combinations work or don't work with their coaching staffs. It's an inexact science but a necessary tool – or evil pending your view.
Analytics aren't going anywhere. Former players such as Stackhouse can still get in front of the line if they don't turn a blind eye toward it. If both worlds are bridged correctly, the numbers should back up what plays out on the court. Of course, that requires seeing the game through the correct lens, too, which is where Stackhouse's hands-on acumen would come into play.
"Maybe decide to step away for a minute (from coaching) and be able to get more of a foundation to be able to come to the table with more of that package. That's really intriguting to me as well," said Stackhouse, who was named D-League coach of the year after sitting on the Raptors' bench the previous season under Dwane Casey. "We have a lot more to offer than just within the 94 feet of basketball."
Stackhouse, 42, is confident about what he knows about the game but realizes he has more ground to cover to be prepared for that step.
"Most of these guys in the front office, I can go get what they've got. They can't go get what I have (in playing experience)," he said. "It's a love for this game. This is all I've known how to do since I was probably nine or 10 years old."
What the league can do is help train former players who want to learn how to do the job in 2017. And the players can't be dismissive of the process as unfair. Just as big men have had to adapt by shooting from and defending at the three-point arc, this challenge for some isn't that much different.
“I think ultimately where it will pan out is I think you need both. As I watched in the league it’s gone to all basketball experience and no analytics, and then you move to probably too much analytics, and right now as I look in the league we’re still striving to find that right balance," Silver told The Globe.
"I think the way we can help ensure that those candidates get a fair hearing, those candidates who aren’t steeped, who didn’t go to MIT, is to ensure they have the type of analytics training that is necessary.”
It doesn't have to be an either-or proposition. Both needs can be met but there is an adjustment period.