Champion Raptors show NBA’s diverse hiring pays off

Becky Hammon, San Antonio Spurs, NBA
Assistant coach Becky Hammon with Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs during a game against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center in February 2019. Hammon was the first female assistant coach in the NBA.  (Photo by Matteo Marchi/Getty Images)

The NBA is the most diverse of the four major North American sports leagues.

Black text that reads why this matters
By hiring a diverse group of people from the ownership level to coaching staffs, the NBA takes the lead among major sports leagues in the U.S. Having a diverse staff better represents the target audience.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) annual report assessing the diversity of sports leagues gave the NBA the highest mark for a second consecutive season. 

TIDES grades sports leagues based on gender and racial hiring in multiple areas and assigns an overall grade. Several of the NBA’s hiring percentages improved despite the league’s overall grade dropping 0.1 percent (89.8).

The league improved the most in the hiring of head coaches and general managers of color, increasing 3.3 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively. Two of the new hires were first-time head coaches: James Borrego and Lloyd Pierce. 

The increase in the amount of non-white head coaches was one of the biggest increases between the start of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. (Chart courtesy The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport)

Borrego made history as the first Hispanic full-time head coach, becoming the latest in a growing list of recent hires teams and the league have made that are enhancing the league’s diversity and inclusiveness. Such inclusiveness efforts have not yet paid gender dividends. The NBA had no female head coaches and only three female assistant coaches when the 2018-2019 season started: Becky Hammon, Jenny Boucek and Karen Stack-Umlauf.

The league added two female assistants during the 2019 offseason. The Cleveland Cavaliers hired former University of California, Berkeley women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb. She was the first female coach hired directly from the college ranks and the seventh female assistant coach in league history. Gottlieb joins a coaching staff led by former University of Michigan head coach John Beilein, who was hired last month by the Cavaliers. The Boston Celtics hired Kara Lawson, an ESPN analyst and former Olympian. The hire made Lawson the fifth female assistant for this upcoming season.

Becky Hammon was the only woman to lead an NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas, guiding the San Antonio Spurs summer squad.

The increase in the amount of non-white general managers in the NBA was the biggest improvement for the league. (Chart courtesy The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport)

One area the league needs to improve upon is gender hiring for team vice presidents, team presidents/chief executive officers and coaches. The 2019 NBA champion Toronto Raptors are one of a small number of teams with a female vice president: Teresa Resch has been vice president of basketball operations for the last four years and with the organization since 2013.

Women have been instrumental to the success of the Raptors: Resch is one of 10 women on staff. They serve roles ranging from player development to data analytics.

Gender hiring practices in baseball are the lowest between basketball, football and baseball. (Chart courtesy The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport)

 

The female team CEOs/presidents category is one of the lowest graded areas of the NBA’s Racial and Gender Report Card at 12.5 percent. The NBA has seven female executives, including team majority owners Gayle Benson (New Orleans Pelicans) and Jeanie Buss (Los Angeles Lakers).

The hiring of women has been a point of emphasis across the NBA. Despite the low number of female CEOs/presidents, the category totals increased this past year — as was the case in multiple other categories, including professional staff and the league office. Gender diversity in the league office is only second to Major League Soccer, which has 40.9 percent women.

NFL and Major League Baseball gender hiring remains far behind the NBA. Both organizations earned a C grade on their Racial Gender Report Card (RGRC). Overall, the NBA has been the leader in racial and gender diversity for years.

Lamar Smith is a graduate student in the sports journalism program at Arizona State University

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