Of all the things that have happened in sports on the last two days, this is the most outrageous, and most to actually bolster the integrity of the sports broadcasting business. When an athlete with a business interest in the team he is playing against forgets the fact that the team he is playing against had 6 black coaches prior to hiring a black head coach, you know something stinks.
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ESPN host Jay Williams recently got into an argument with rival basketball coach and former player Rick Sund, who pointed out that the Boston Celtics (a franchise with a long history of racially tinged controversy) had a black head coach, Bill Russell, before hiring their first white coach, Tommy Heinsohn. Williams replied, “Well, I never heard of that.”
Three weeks after stepping down as the Boston Celtics’ new president of basketball operations to replace Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens has found a replacement: It was announced that the team was finalizing a deal with Ime Udoka, a veteran NBA assistant coach who worked under Steve Nash last season with the Brooklyn Nets. Of course people will react to the announcement of a new head coach for any team, let alone one as notable as the 17-time NBA champion Celtics. ESPN’s Jay Williams was among those who responded to the news: He congratulated Udoka (who also spent seven seasons as an assistant with the Spurs and then a year with the 76ers) on Twitter for becoming the Celtics’ first colored head coach.
That’s right. Apparently Williams doesn’t remember or know that the Celtics had six black coaches before Udoka was hired, including the first black coach in NBA history, Bill Russell, and that three of them led the Celtics to at least one NBA title.
Jay Williams mistakenly tweeted that Ime Udoka is the first colored head coach of the Boston Celtics
(left to right) Jay Williams; Boston Celtics logo; Robin Marchant/Getty Images; George Rose/Getty Images
Shortly after, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Udoka had signed his contract as the 18th pick. Williams himself took to Twitter to congratulate the veteran assistant. But he quickly deleted that tweet after someone told him he was either dead wrong or remembered that he’s supposed to be an NBA expert and did some research. If you didn’t see Williams’ comments before he deleted them, many took a screenshot, which you can see below.
Wait, wait, brother, isn’t that what you do for a living? Forget K.C. Jones, who, unlike you, is now a legend. But what about Doc? …….. M.L. Carr ? pic.twitter.com/LV9UDdbnTw
– Latrella Sprewell (@corbannba) Heritage Bill 23 June 2021
Of course, the response was swift and serious, and Twitter exploded with responses to… Now the reaction from Williams. But we’re not just talking about the general public, because representatives of the media were also present.
I just saw the Jay Williams controversy. We need to get past the obsession with race. The Boston Celtics and Red Auerbach built an all-black starting lineup around Bill Russell and eventually made him their head coach. It’s certainly White’s fault for not learning the Jay Celtics history.
– Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) 23 June 2021
Trust me, there are thousands of these types of tweets, and they keep coming.
On Wednesday night, Williams returned to the Internet to respond to the comments, using an old excuse.
Regarding the tweet about the Boston Celtics from my account a few hours ago…. I didn’t post it and my password has now been changed.
– Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) June 23, 2021
Is this possible? Yes, always. Is this likely? No. Of course, there’s always the possibility that someone else manages Williams’ Twitter account and that person posted the original. But even that seems unlikely in this case.
Just in case Mr. Williams (or his hack, or whoever runs his Twitter account) needs a historical reminder, here’s a little history lesson on the Celtics’ black head coaches over the years.
In 1966, after leading the Celtics to eight consecutive NBA titles and to nine in ten years, Red Auerbach resigned as Boston’s head coach but remained the franchise’s general manager. But Auerbach didn’t even wait until his final season as coach to name his successor. After the Celtics lost Game 1 of the 1966 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, Auerbach appointed Russell as his successor, making the five-time NBA MVP the first black head coach in NBA history. Boston came back and won the series in seven games.
Russell spent the next three seasons as a player-coach and led the Celtics to two more NBA titles before resigning both positions in 1969. In those three seasons, Russell posted a 162-83 win-loss record in the regular season and a 12-6 record in the postseason. In the mid-1970s, he returned to the bench and coached the Seattle Supersonics for four seasons before playing 58 games for the Sacramento Kings from 1987-88.
Boston has had five other black coaches since Russell left the Celtics’ bench in 1969, and six more with Udoka’s arrival at Biantown before the 2021-22 season.
Tom Sutch Sanders, who won eight titles as a player with Russell in Boston and was the first black head coach in an Ivy League sport, coached the Celtics for 62 games (separated by two seasons) in 1978 and posted a 23-39 record.
K.C. Jones, who also won eight titles as a player with the Celtics, took charge of the Boston team in 1983 and went 308-102 in five seasons and 65-37 in the postseason, winning titles in 1984 and 1986.
When Jones unexpectedly resigned, his place was taken by longtime assistant Jimmy Rodgers, who had coached the team for two seasons and had a record of 94-70 in the regular season and a 2-6 playoff record.
M.L. Carr, who won two titles with Boston as a player in the 1980s, also coached the Celtics for two seasons, from 1995 to 1997. He went 48-116 and missed the postseason both years before being replaced by Rick Pitino.
And, of course, Doc Rivers, who picked up his third regular season victory in franchise history with 416 vs. 305 tackles for loss. Rivers also went 58-46 in postseason games and led the Celtics to their 17th and final NBA title in 2008.
As for Udoka, he will inherit a Celtics team that went 36-36 in the 2020-21 season and lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs to his former employer, the Brooklyn Nets.
That’s right, Jay. Let us know if you need anything else.
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