NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he’s mulling whether older coaches will be able to be on the bench when the league returns to play in July.
The NBA announced Thursday the board of governors approved the 22-team format to return. Games will be played at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., at a single site. Silver told TNT’s “Inside the NBA” that officials are still working out whether older coaches will be on the bench.
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“I think one of the things we know, we've learned a lot about the virus since we shut down in March, and the data is demonstrating that for the most part, and there are exceptions, that [it is] healthy young people that are the least vulnerable,” Silver said.
“So we are going to have to work through protocols that maybe, for example, certain coaches may not be able to be the bench coach. They may have to retain social distancing protocols. And maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room or a ballroom 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. So those are all issues that we are continuing to work through.”
New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry, 65, told ESPN the plan didn’t “make sense.”
“Unless we're going to line all the coaches up and give them physicals to determine all the underlying conditions, how are we going to determine who is at a high risk? At the end of the day, they're the league. They're going to make the choice," Gentry said.
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“I think it's unfair if that's what they're doing. To base something strictly on age when there's nothing out there that says I'm more susceptible to catching it than anybody else. I understand the risk that I'm taking if I do get it. But hell, I want to be with my team and do my job. That's what they hired me for.”
There are four other coaches who are 60 or older who are scheduled to head down to Orlando to play in these games – San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich (71), Houston Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni (69), Portland Trail Blazers’ Terry Stotts (62) and Dallas Mavericks’ Rick Carlisle (60).
Carlisle added in a separate statement: “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. he 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.”
Silver, upon announcing the league’s restart, said he plans on battling COVID-19 in a responsible way.
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“While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways.”