Do NBA Teams Have A Coaching Bias Against Big Men?


The internets and the media world had plenty to talk about earlier this week when the Brooklyn Nets decided to name Jason Kidd as the head coach. While many around the NBA world were happy for the point God to land a head coaching gig immediately after playing 19 seasons in the Association, there are some (me) who scratched their heads a little bit that a guy could leave out the locker room a player in one instance, and then walk back in immediately as the old ball coach the next.

Especially when guys like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Patrick Ewing have clamored and labored for head coaching gigs to no avail.

There have been eight head coaches hired so far since the regular season ended, and if you look at the list, you'll notice a similar trend with each coaches background:

  • Atlanta Hawks, Mike Budenholzer: Played point guard at Pomona College
  • Brooklyn Nets, Jason Kidd: 19-year point guard in the NBA (duh)
  • Charlotte Bobcats, Steve Clifford: Played point guard at University of Maine-Farmington
  • Cleveland Cavaliers, Mike Brown: Played guard at University of San Diego
  • Detroit Pistons, Maurice Cheeks: four-time all-star point guard in the NBA
  • Milwaukee Bucks, Larry Drew: 11-year point guard in the NBA
  • Phoenix Suns, Jeff Hornacek: 14-year shooting guard in the NBA
  • Sacramento Kings, Michael Malone: Played point guard at Loyola University (Maryland)

Eight head coaching positions filled by eight guys who all wear the size of shoes you can walk into a local Foot Locker and buy. What's more astonishing is, if you look over the list of all head coaches in the NBA, the only big man you'll find presently serving as the head man is Kevin McHale in Houston. This is interesting, because other than Celtics bigs like McHale, Bill Russell, Paul Silas Don Nelson and the Zen master Phil Jackson, you'd be hard-pressed to find another successful big man head coach in the NBA's history. So what does this mean, if you're over 6'10" you can only be a successful head man if you're blessed by the rings of Auerbach or the Zen gods?


Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a man who has the respect and adulation of any and everyone in the basketball world, has stated publicly for almost two decades his desire to be a head coach in the NBA. He's stated his desire to coach the Lakers, the Bucks, UCLA, Columbia and probably a Rucker Park team or three. Sure, Kareem was given a chance to be a special assistant coach on the 2009-10 world-champion Lakers squads, but he'd never been given a chance to get the big job. The only job he'd be able to secure was coaching the Oklahoma Storm in the now defunct United States Basketball League. Or as my mama would call it, "Son, your boys are playing up the street if you want to go play."

Patrick Ewing has faced similar issues in trying to land a head coaching gig, but has trudged along as best as he could as an assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy's Houston Rockets and Stan Van Gundy's Orlando Magic. After being teased with potential head coaching opportunities like going down to the Vegas Summer League (partially to coach his son) to coach the Magic, Ewing is now the associate head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Which to be honest, I'm not even sure what that means. The associate head coach? So do you coach the team on Tuesdays and Thursdays or what? Who knows.

In basketball, there's a belief that the point guards are the floor generals on the court. They must not only bring up the ball and initiate the offense, but when chaos ensues they're usually called upon to calm things down. However, having strong basketball acumen isn't just resigned to the little fellas. Russell has long been regarded as a basketball savant, Bill Walton's always been blessed with a "special" way of thinking about the game and no one can teach a post move quite like Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon. If you need further validation, just look down at the man who coached at Georgetown in John Thompson, who played behind Russell in Boston and then coached up three Hall of Fame centers on his own for good measure.

Jason Kidd will probably make one fine head coach, and I'm sure other guards will come through the coaching ranks and have the chance to prove themselves. But if you wanted to think outside the box as a general manager ... then maybe you'll give a chance to a coach who can't fit in the box at all.

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