NBA playoffs: Two Black coaches take center stage for Raptors vs. Caviliers series

This year’s Eastern Conference winners will ensure that the 2016 NBA Finals will have a Black head coach on the sidelines. Black coaches oftentimes aren’t given enough credit, especially during game telecasts of their leadership ability on and off the court.

Jalen Rose
Jalen Rose

The MSR participated in Monday’s media conference call and asked both ESPN NBA Analysts Jalen Rose and Jeff Van Gundy to assess the jobs of both Head Coaches Dwane Casey (Toronto) and Tyronn Lue (Cleveland), respectively, thus far this season and post season. Casey and Lue are the only Black coaches with teams still playing.

Casey’s job perhaps has been overlooked because he’s in Toronto, the league’s only non-American franchise, noted Van Gundy. “If Dwane was coaching a team in the States, and they overachieved as the Raptors did by winning 56 games [in the regular season] and now reached the conference finals, he would be generating headlines. He has a marginally talented team” that finished with the East’s second-best record behind Cleveland, while dealing with whether or not his contract would be renewed or extended the last couple of seasons, added the analyst.

The Raptors this post season survived two seven-game playoff series and reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history. “He’s done a miraculous job there,” stated Van Gundy of Casey.

“It is hard,” he added, regarding Lue, who took over as Cleveland’s coach in midseason. “He’s done a good job as I ever seen in handling the change and the responsibility…and the poise he has kept, and them playing exceptional basketball.”

Rose, a former NBA player, offered his assessment on the two coaches from a player’s point of view: “I appreciate how he allowed his players to continue to play to its identity,” he says of Casey, “even when players are struggling.” He also was impressed with Casey’s moves during the playoffs as well as the way his players kept playing hard.

“I appreciate how he has kept Kevin Love involved without force-feeding him the ball. And getting J.R. Smith to commit himself on the defensive end,” said the analyst on Lue.

Both analysts also noted that coaching these days in the NBA has drastically changed.

The NBA head coach “is the easiest to blame,” said Van Gundy, a former league head coach. “It’s a tough time for coaches right now. I feel for them.”

Rose pointed out that a “culture shift” has occurred where the coach is no longer seen by players as the authoritative voice. “It’s OK if you don’t get along with the coach but that dynamic has given a cosmic shift to the game.”

Whatever vision a particular team has going into training camp is sometimes scrapped by management after a couple of months when the club gets off to a slow start, he noted. As a result, “It gives players an out,” added Rose.

“I do know that the patience [by organizations] is at an all-time low, and I also think the over-estimation of the rosters is at an all-time high,” surmised Van Gundy. Unrealistic expectations placed on incoming high drafted rookies or teams expecting to make the playoffs, even when they are bad “creates discontent,” he pointed out.

Toronto and Cleveland will face each other in the best-of-seven series beginning Tuesday May 17 (8:30 pm ET).


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