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San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

Source: Mike Ehrmann / Getty

The Dallas Mavericks’ blowout Game 5 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves made NBA history two-fold Thursday night: its 29-point halftime lead was the largest-ever halftime lead in a deciding game in any conference final and Minnesota’s largest halftime deficit of any of the franchise’s playoffs games, according to ESPN.

But the Mavericks’ win also wrote a new chapter in the ongoing book of Black history because it also means that two African American head coaches will square off in the NBA Finals for just the third time in league history — and the first time in seven years.

Meet Jason Kidd and Joe Mazzulla

The Mavericks, who are led by third-year head coach Jason Kidd, advanced to play against the Boston Celtics, who are coached by Joe Mazzulla, who’s in his second year guiding the team.

Kidd is an NBA legend and former Mavericks star who retired as a player in 2013 and ranked second all-time in assists following 19 seasons. He notably led the Mavericks to its first NBA title in 2011 as the starting point guard.

Mazzulla, on the other hand, never played in the NBA following a commendable career playing at West Virginia University. He became an assistant coach with the Celtics beginning with the 2019-2020 season before being abruptly promoted to interim head coach in the weeks ahead of last season following a salacious scandal involving the former head coach Ime Udoka — who is also Black — and the upper levels of franchise management. Mazzulla was finally promoted as the Celtics’ full-time head coach early last year.

Since then, all he’s done is lead the Celtics to the best regular season record this season along with the best playoffs record, having lost just six games.

Mazzulla is trying to lead the Celtics to its 18th title, which would make for the most championships in NBA history.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks - Game Six

Head coach Jason Kidd of the Dallas Mavericks looks on against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter in Game Six of the Western Conference Second Round Playoffs at American Airlines Center on May 18, 2024, in Dallas, Texas. | Source: Sam Hodde / Getty

Black head coaches in the NBA Finals

Kidd and Mazzulla join a very short list of other Black head coaches facing each other in the NBA Finals.

Officially, it’s only happened once before.

Unofficially, though, Black head coaches have faced off in the NBA Finals two times.

“There had been black NBA head coaches before in Bill Russell and Earl Lloyd, but when Al Attles coached the Golden State Warriors against K.C. Jones and the Washington Bullets in the 1975 Finals, it was a first on a championship level,” Andscape’s Marc Spears explained in an article from 2017 — the same year that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors met in the NBA Finals.

That last part is important because the Cavaliers’ head coach at the time, Tyronne Lue, is Black. The Warriors’ head coach, Steve Kerr, is white. But because Kerr was nursing a back injury that kept him away from the sidelines for those Finals, the Warriors’ acting head coach was Mike Brown, who is Black.

Kerr ended up returning to the sidelines for Game 5 when the Warriors beat the Cavaliers to win another NBA title, but the fact still remains that the championship series featured two Black head coaches facing each other in the NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four

Head coach Joe Mazzulla of the Boston Celtics talks with referee Courtney Kirkland #61 during the first half of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round Playoffs against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on May 13, 2024, in Cleveland, Ohio. | Source: Nick Cammett / Getty

Black NBA head coaches

The topic of Black head coaches in any sport is typically a sensitive one. However, the NBA has been among the professional sports leagues and has a long history of Black head coaches, though perhaps not at the rate some may prefer.

In fact, it was the Celtics that first broke the NBA’s head coaching color barrier when the iconic franchise named legendary center Bill Russell as its head coach in 1966.

Despite that level of progressiveness, it wasn’t too long ago that the firing of an African American head coach in the NBA revived criticisms that Black people must be at least twice as good as their white counterparts or else risk being seen as a failure.

In that case, the Toronto Raptors fired its head coach in 2018 just as Dwayne Casey was voted by his peers as the league’s coach of the year after winning a franchise record 59 games and leading his team to a top seed in the playoffs.

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% of the 30 head coaches in a league with more than 74% of its players Black.

That number has grown since then to include Kidd and Mazzulla, whose teams are red hot entering the NBA Finals, a best of seven games matchup that is set to begin next week.


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The post 2024 NBA Finals Feature 2 Black Head Coaches For Just 3rd Time, Technically appeared first on NewsOne.

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