The NBA coaches’ union is concerned that the league’s return-to-play setup at Walt Disney World Resort will risk their members’ health and hurt their future job prospects.
At the end of what will be a four-plus-month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA will have 22 of its 30 teams resume action at the Disney campus near Orlando, Fla., with training camp due to run July 9-29 and games to commence on July 30.
All players and staffers will essentially be quarantined for the duration of their stay in the NBA’s “bubble” while undergoing regular COVID-19 testing.
The National Basketball Coaches Association is questioning the details of the “bubble” protocols, particularly whether the league’s oldest head coaches will be permitted to execute all of their regular duties.
The San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, who is 71 years old; the Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni, 69; and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Alvin Gentry, 65, all fall in the age bracket that is viewed as being at risk to severe consequences if they contract the coronavirus.
In a statement to ESPN, the union wrote, “The health and safety of all NBA coaches is our main concern. However, we are also concerned with a coach’s opportunity to work and to not have their ability to secure future jobs be severely jeopardized. The league assured us that a coach will not be excluded solely because of age.
“We feel the medical review process is designed to flag only those individuals who pose significant threats of substantial harm to themselves that cannot be reduced or eliminated by the NBA’s considerable steps to create a healthy and safe atmosphere in Orlando.
“Adam (Silver) and the NBA have created a situation in Orlando that is likely far safer than in our coaches’ home markets. Absent a significant threat, we believe a coach should be able to understand and assume their individual risks, waive liability, and coach in Orlando.”
Silver had said initially in a TNT interview on June 5, “There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people. … We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not be able to be the bench coach.
“They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room … with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play, we’re not going to want them that close to players in order to protect them.”
However, Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the NBACA, subsequently spoke with Silver.
“(Silver) admitted that he jumped the gun with his statement to TNT,” Carlisle told ESPN. “The health and safety of our coaches is first and foremost. It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s.
“The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”
–Field Level Media