For a league that’s primarily African-American, only three of the league’s 30 GMs are black: Dell Demps (New Orleans), Steve Mills (New York), and Masai Ujiri (Toronto, who is Nigerian). The league also has two African-America team presidents in Doc Rivers (Clippers) and Magic Johnson (Lakers), but the lack of minorities in NBA front office positions is becoming a concern for a league that prides itself on diversity.
Silver said the league is working to train former players who have managerial aspirations on the salary cap and other business-related topics. “Not to suggest that there aren’t many candidates out there who do have those skills, what we can do is we can use the league office, I can use the commissioner’s office, as a little bit of a bully pulpit and more needs to be done on those issues,” Silver said. “We’re very focused on it in the coaching ranks and the front office ranks and the general manager ranks as well, and it’s something that we have ongoing discussions with our owners in the league and other team personnel.
Privately, many aspiring African-American coaches and GMs believe they are being tabbed as not being schooled in basketball analytics, so they are being passed over for opportunities. Many did not want to speak on the record for fear of jeopardizing their chances for an employment opportunity. The league has taken a dramatic turn over the past decade toward more analytical thinking. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has filled his staff with analytical thinkers, including assistant GM Michael Zarren, who is considered one of the league’s bright minds. But some former players privately believe their basketball acumen from playing is being overlooked because they are not considered analytics freaks.
The 76ers chose not to renew the contract of Lance Pearson, their director of applied analytics. Pearson, who worked for the team the past four seasons, received the news at the conclusion of the season. “I want to thank the Philadelphia 76ers … players, coaches, staff, fans for one of the best times and learning experiences of my life,” Pearson tweeted. “I’ll always treasure the memories, friends and knowledge I’ve gained here and wish everyone the best.”