As of this writing, three NBA head coaching jobs are open: Boston, Orlando, and Portland. The Celtics’ gig came open under unique circumstances — Brad Stevens got moved into the team’s front office following Danny Ainge’s decision to leave the organization, leaving a vacancy on the bench — but for the other two, the wording used to describe their ousters raised plenty of eyebrows.
Both Steve Clifford and Terry Stotts saw their tenures end not by firings, but via a mutual parting of ways. Plenty of folks pointed out that this is a curious phenomenon that overwhelmingly occurs to one group of coaches over another, with Charles Barkley joining the chorus on Saturday night before the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks faced off at the Barclays Center.
Barkley: “America, that means they were white. They fire brothers, they don’t part ways” pic.twitter.com/R7rzd5XyFh
— CJ Fogler #BlackLivesMatter (@cjzero) June 5, 2021
“Mutual parting of ways in Portland and in Orlando,” Ernie Johnson said. “Steve Clifford out with the Magic, Terry Stotts out with the Portland Trail Blazers…”
“America, that means they were white,” Barkley said. “They fire brothers, they don’t part ways.”
While Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith laughed at Barkley saying this, there has been plenty of discourse in recent years about how Black coaches oftentimes don’t get opportunities — both to get in the door or weather bad stretches of play — that white coaches do. Amid all of this, hopefully the way we use “fire” vs. “part ways” can be put under the microscope in the future, too.