Nash, the new head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, addressed the issue head on during his virtual introductory news conference on Wednesday.
“I have benefited from White privilege,” he said. “I think, as White people, we have to understand we have a certain privilege and a benefit by the color of our skin in our communities. We have a long way to go to find equality and social and racial justice. I hope that I’m a great ally in that cause.”
He continued, “We do need more diversity and more opportunities for African American coaches on staff in all capacities. The league was built through African American players, and stars have made this one of the greatest entertainment industries and businesses in sports in the world.”
Last week, the Nets announced the hiring of Nash, 46, to a four-year contract as the team’s new head coach. The announcement was met with some criticism, given his lack of head coaching experience and the relative dearth of minority NBA head coaches — only five — in a league made up predominantly of Black players. ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith called Nash’s hiring “White privilege.”
Though Nash recognized his privilege and told reporters he wants “to be part of change moving forward,” he also acknowledged his own experience as a player for decades in the NBA.
“I think leading an NBA team (as a point guard) for almost two decades is pretty unique,” he said. “So, while I haven’t necessarily learned some of the skills that I’ll definitely seek to understand and learn as far as the technical aspects of coaching, I was never far from that.”
Nash is taking over the head coaching job from Kenny Atkinson. Nash retired from the NBA as a player in 2015, after 18 seasons in the league, primarily with the Phoenix Suns. Nash, two-time MVP, is largely regarded as one of the best NBA point guards of his time.