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Hollinger: NBA May Need to Develop Ground Rules for Coaching Hires

After multiple blunders in Portland and Dallas, John Hollinger suggests that NBA teams might need some guidelines.

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NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

John Hollinger of The Athletic suggested today that the NBA might need to adopt hiring guidelines for head coaches given the recent negative responses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks hiring Chauncey Billups and Jason Kidd to their respective lead positions. Kidd was convicted of domestic violence in 2001, while Billups settled a civil suit for sexual assault in 2000.

Hollinger’s article [subscription required] detailed the public-relations bungles in both cities, also touching on the ethics of the interview process. This included a dive into Portland’s problematic press conference from Tuesday, in which they cut off attempts to ask Billups about the settlement and the incident that led up to it.

In Portland’s case, they committed their second PR own-goal in a month by forestalling even an attempt to talk about Billups’ past. Billups himself seemed prepared to answer such questions at his introductory press conference on Tuesday, until the question was cut off by a Blazers PR rep.

Meanwhile, GM Neil Olshey’s assertion to “take our word” that the team thoroughly investigated the incident rests on flimsy support without a willingness to offer a single shred of supporting detail. If anything, it had the opposite effect: Anyone listening would have come away with the assumption that they didn’t do much investigating at all. (Our intrepid Blazers reporter Jason Quick reports that, actually, they did, a fact which made their Politburo performance even more bizarre).

Hollinger suggested that having an adequate answer for the question was the “bare minimum” for any PR event, saying any team “worth its salt” rehearses same before the session.

After continuing through Portland’s missteps, Hollinger also shined a light on the Blazers—and other teams—interviewing, but not hiring, San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Becky Hammon.

The Blazers also made things worse for themselves by bringing in a female candidate, Becky Hammon, but she may as well have been attached to a giant neon sign reading “this is a token interview for appearances only.”

To be fair, Portland did conduct a second interview with Hammon, but this still seemed for appearances sake: Everyone in the league has known Olshey wanted to hire Billups for ages, dating back to when Oregon was a cold-weather state.

And more...

Someday there will be a woman head coach in the NBA, and it may be someday soon. (Like, real soon, if Teresa Weatherspoon gets the Pelicans gig). I’m guessing that when it happens, it will be from a team that interviews multiple women for the job, among other candidates, and comes into the process with a fairly open mind rather than proclaiming ‘LOOK, WE INTERVIEWED ONE.’ But for now, the best fake-sincere way to show you’re an enlightened franchise is to interview Becky Hammon, and then hire the dude you wanted to hire anyway. Sadly, she has to keep taking these interviews and hope that one of these teams actually means well. After all, Kim Ng was hired by the Miami Marlins as MLB’s first female GM earlier this year after being a constant runner-up for two decades.

One might have glossed over the tokenism here had the Blazers not also hired Billups, given his history, and then tried to gloss over everything at the press conference. Instead, the juxtaposition is impossible to ignore.

Hollinger concludes by bringing up the wider question of how to handle these things. He does not offer an answer, but suggests that the NBA might.

...while anyone who works in the league hates to have the heavy hand of the league office involved, the events this week make me wonder if this is a place where they could step in and not-so-softly suggest some guidelines. Because based on what’s happened this summer, the franchises themselves are struggling to figure this out on their own.

With a subscription to The Athletic, you can read the entire extensive article here.