Curt MillerImage: Getty Images
Life comes at you fast. Regression comes at you quicker.
On Sunday, July 10, inside Wintrust Arena in Chicago, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert took part in a press conference before the league’s annual All-Star Game. She said this when asked concerning the league’s diversity amongst head coaches.
“We have now six out of 12, and now we’ve seven out of 12 women, and there have been only a pair after I got here into the league [in 2019],” she said. “I feel we’re taking a look at diversity broadly, each gender and race.”
The six out of 12 she was talking about were Black coaches, as half the coaches in a league that’s around 75 percent Black looked just like the players on the ground. 4 months later, that’s not the case anymore. When Washington Mystics head coach Mike Thibault announced that he was stepping right down to grow to be the team’s general manager, as his son Eric Thibault can be the brand new head coach, it didn’t look like a giant deal. A franchise with a succession plan in the course of the offseason doesn’t appear that newsworthy at first glance.
Nevertheless, a re-assessment will show that the move was the newest evidence of how the league’s head coaching vacancies were whitewashed. On the All-Star break, James Wade (Chicago), Vickie Johnson (Dallas), Tanisha Wright (Atlanta), Fred Williams (Los Angeles), Carlos Knox (Indiana), and Noelle Quinn (Seattle) made up the highest variety of Black coaches the league had seen since 1998.
It was all good just a number of months ago.
Since then, Latricia Trammell has taken over in Dallas after Johnson was fired, Knox’s interim tag didn’t turn right into a everlasting position in Indiana, as Christie Sides was brought in, and Williams left Los Angeles to take a position at Auburn, prompting the Sparks to rent former Connecticut head coach Curt Miller. The Suns then hired Stephanie White to fill the void Miller left, after which Eric Thibault took over for his father in D.C.
In only a matter of months, the WNBA lost three of the six Black head coaches it boasted, as white coaches filled all five of the league’s offseason vacancies. Mockingly enough, the other is going down over within the NBA. The league currently has 16 Black coaches, which is greater than half — and a recent record. And whenever you add Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to the combination — the primary Asian-American coach in NBA history — it implies that 17 of the league’s 30 franchises are coached by men of color.
This is the reason the WNBA needs a Rooney Rule, the NFL initiative that went into effect in 2003 that mandated that teams interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs. Nevertheless, because of racism, teams have found ways to skirt the rule, as there are only three Black head coaches currently within the NFL, because the league is coping with a class-action lawsuit for its racist hiring practices.
As easy because it is to argue how much of a failure the Rooney Rule has been over time — at minimum, it serves as a continuing reminder of the inequalities which are going down in relation to how owners hire head coaches, and points to the lengths that many will go to bypass, and ignore the rule.
The WNBA is ready during which the league has shown that it’s able to following in each the footsteps of the NFL and the NBA, which sit at opposite ends of the spectrum. Which means whichever step the WNBA takes next might be a very important one — whether it’s a march within the direction of equality or a hike toward hate.