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Doc Rivers and the African American Coaches Opportunity

Doc Rivers and the African American Coaches Opportunity

Current Philadelphia 76ers coach Doc Rivers joined an elite group of coaches by ranking 10th on the NBA’s all-time win list. Rivers was happy with the achievement, but did not hide his concern when he learned that among the first 25 coaches only three are African-American: Rivers himself, Lenny Wilkens and Nate McMillan.

“We had the opportunity and we took it,” Rivers told Marc Spears for The Undefeated. “The three of us demonstrated what we already knew, that many black men could have done the same as us. But the worst thing that could happen to a black coach for a long time was to be fired, because that guy wouldn’t have another chance. “

“I am not the norm. If our guys get a chance and then get out, they never get another job again. And I have the feeling that this does not apply to others. The fact that we are three of the 25, I take it with pride. But I have mixed emotions because I really believe that others should have the same opportunity. “

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Wilkens ranks second in wins among NBA head coaches with 1,332 in 2,487 games between 1969 and 2005. Rivers edged Bill Fitch in 10th place with 945 wins in 1,626 games since he started coaching. in 1999. McMillan, now an assistant coach for the Atlanta Hawks, is ranked 22nd on the list with 661 wins in 1,249 games, spanning from 2000 to 2020.

The next African-American coaches on the list are: Al Attles (former Warriors player and head coach) who ranks 28th with 557 wins; current Kings assistant coach Alvin Gentry, who ranks 33rd with 510 wins; and Dwane Casey, current Pistons coach, who ranks 42nd with 434 wins.

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In this current NBA season, 2020-21, there are only seven African-American coaches in the NBA: Rivers, Casey, Tyronn Lue (Los Angeles Clippers), Monty Williams (Phoenix Suns), JB Bickerstaff (Cleveland Cavaliers), Stephen Silas (Houston Rockets) and Lloyd Pierce (Atlanta Hawks).

The admiration for Wilkens

Doc Rivers believes Wilkens deserves much more respect for what he accomplished not only because of his coaching skills, but also because of his 15-year reign as the winning-leading head coach. The former Celtics and Clippers is dismayed that Wilkens is rarely mentioned in conversations about the best coaches in NBA history.

“I’m very passionate about Lenny Wilkens,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing, even in his final days as a coach with the Hawks, how the criticism was heard. There are so many great coaches in our League and there have been just as many. And yet when you hear in the media whoever talks about great coaches, Lenny Wilkens’s name doesn’t come up. “

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“You just have to look at Lenny’s history. He trained in Seattle and they won a championship. He goes to Cleveland, who had struggled for years, and they win right away. He goes to Atlanta and they start winning. He did great things. You don’t hear that though, but you hear it from everyone else. That annoys me.”

In 2010, Wilkens was overtaken as the winningest coach by Don Nelson, who served as the Warriors head coach. Finally Nelson retired after that season with 1,335 victories, only three more than those achieved by Wilkens. (GG) (NBA Maniacs)

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