NBA fans learned something on Friday that is a foregone conclusion in the Black community: Black people must be at least twice as good as their White counterparts or else risk being seen as a failure.
The Toronto Raptors confirmed that old adage by firing its coach, Dwayne Casey, who just this week was voted by his peers as the league’s coach of the year after winning a franchise record 59 games and earning a top seed in the playoffs.
His offense? Not being able to beat a team powered by the best player on the planet.
“African American employees tend to receive more scrutiny from their bosses than their white colleagues, meaning that small mistakes are more likely to be caught,” the Atlantic wrote in 2015. But this particular case goes much deeper than that.
The NBA had just five Black head coaches entering the 2017-18 season. In case anyone’s bad at math, that means Black folks made up just 20 percent of the 30 head coaches in a league with more than 74 percent of its players Black. Barring any further surprising developments, that figure was expected to shrink with Casey no longer factoring into the equation.
While the narrative surrounding Black employees needing to work twice as hard to be recognized has mostly centered on wages and wealth, that doesn’t apply to the NBA, where most players and coaches are rewarded handsomely with contracts that often exceed seven figures.
Instead, the relevant narrative here that can be applied to the NBA is one of merit: Casey outperformed all but one of his fellow coaches by powering the Raptors to a 59-win regular season (out of 82 games) and the second best record league-wide. Last season he coached the team to the brink of competing in the coveted NBA Finals, and he only had two losing seasons in seven seasons at the team’s helm.
For perspective’s sake, former New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who is White, never had his job threatened when he couldn’t propel his team past the Chicago Bulls, which, at the time was led by the legendary Michael Jordan.
But in this case, Casey, who for the past three consecutive seasons has been knocked out of the playoffs by a team led by LeBron James, the heir apparent to Jordan’s NBA greatness, a job was terminated. Days after Casey won NBA Coach of the Year, no less.
There are no tears being shed for Casey, who earned at least $6 million this season and was expected to “have his selection” of coaching jobs, but that’s beside the point. As is true for any employment situation, all coaches should be held equally accountable for their job performances. But the fact of the matter is that many White coaches are routinely being rewarded for mediocre results by being allowed to keep their jobs. And that’s a problem.