ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith wasn’t on board with the Brooklyn Nets’ shock hiring of former two-time MVP Steve Nash as their new head coach.
Nash’s appointment shocked the entire basketball world with fans, analysts and even players in disbelief over the move.
Watch the best of the NBA Playoffs, including every game of the Conference Finals and Finals LIVE on ESPN with Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your free trial now & start streaming instantly >
Smith, notorious for making at times controversial remarks, took to the screen on the day Nash was announced and hit out at hiring.
The long-time ESPN presenter labelled the hiring as “white privilege” with Nash having no previous coaching experience.
“This is one of the toughest positions I’ve ever had to take,” Smith said on the air. “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s no way around this. This is white privilege. This does not happen for a Black man.”
The remarks from the high-profile ESPN personality didn’t sit well a lot of people, including his own co-working in Jay Williams.
“Come on SA,” Williams tweeted. “Steve Nash being chosen over Mark Jackson/Ty Lue is not “White Privilege” … 2 superstar black athletes ultimately made the decision & we know who they are and what they are about.”
Former Phoenix Suns superstar turned media personality Charles Barkley didn’t bite his tongue when talking about the comments.
“I was very disappointed in some of the guys on television today talking about white privilege. Very disappointed,” Barkley said on TNT’s Inside the NBA. “They’re like, ‘Well, this doesn’t happen to Black guys.’ And I’m like, ‘It happened to Doc Rivers. It happened to Jason Kidd. It happened to Derek Fisher.’
“When you have a responsibility, especially when you have to talk about something as serious as race, you can’t be full of crap. You’ve got to be honest and fair.
“Steve Nash is a great player and a good dude. But I was so disappointed in some of these guys. I was like, ‘Dude, Black guys have done this before.’ Now, do we need more Black coaches in the NBA? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in college football? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in pro football. Yes.”
Smith wasn’t going to take the heat coming back his way without a fight and he returned serve to those questioning his stance.
“I mentioned white privilege,” he said on ESPN’s First Take.
“I have a message to those who feel that I was wrong, that I need to apologise, that I don’t know what I’m talking about, etc., etc. I don’t give a damn what y’all feel. Y’all can all kick rocks. I don’t give a damn. I’m not budging from my position one inch.”
He went on to clarify that while black coaches have been hired without experience before, nine of the 16 coaches hired without any previous experience since 1978-79 are black, he believes the Nets position is different.
With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster, the Nets are expected to be a top contender in the Eastern Conference.
“My point about white privilege, tell me the Black man that would happen for? No resume whatsoever as a coach, at all. And you get a job of this magnitude,” he said.
“I’m not talking about Derek Fisher, with the sorry New York Knicks at the time. I’m not talking about Jason Kidd, his first era when they were building the Brooklyn Nets squad, I’m not talking about Doc Rivers in Orlando. I’m not talking about those opportunities.
I’m talking about championship ready, and it would be a shock if you don’t win 50 games and you’re not contending for a crown. Black folks with no resume getting a job like that? I have been covering the NBA for 25 years …. brothers do not get those opportunities.”