Like just about everyone, Charles Barkley was caught off guard when the Brooklyn Nets announced Thursday morning that they had hired Steve Nash as their next head coach. However, Barkley took time on "Inside the NBA" Thursday evening to defend his fellow Phoenix Suns icon.
"I was very disappointed in some of the guys on television today talking about white privilege - very disappointed," Barkley said. "They're like 'Well, this doesn't happen to Black guys.' And I'm like 'Well it happened to Doc Rivers, to Jason Kidd, it happened to Derek Fisher and Isiah Thomas.' I just think that when you have a responsibility - especially when you have to talk about something serious like race - you can't be full of crap. You've got to be honest and fair. So, like I said, Steve Nash was a great player and is a good dude. But I was so disappointed earlier in some of these guys - I said 'Dude, Black guys have done this before.' Now, do we need more Black coaches in the NBA? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in college football? Yes. Do we need more Black coaches in pro football? Yes. But this wasn't the right time to say it today - good luck to Steve Nash."
Though he was far from the only person to make the assertion, Stephen A. Smith was the most prominent person to suggest that Nash's skin tone helped him to get a high-profile job without any prior coaching experience.
"Congratulations to him," Smith said on "ESPN First Take" on Thursday. "He deserves it, I get it. But this ain't about him, what I'm about to say. Ladies and gentlemen, there's no way around this: this is white privilege. This does not happen for a black man. No experience whatsoever at any level as a coach, and you get the Brooklyn Nets job?
"I'm thinking about a champion that is Ty Lue -- passed up. I'm thinking about a guy who built the foundation of the Golden State Warriors in Mark Jackson -- passed up. I'm thinking about the years that Sam Cassell has served as an assistant -- passed up."
Regardless of what went into him being hired, Nash, a two-time NBA MVP, won't have much time to grow into the role of NBA head coach. After he missed the entirety of the 2019-20 season recovering from a torn achilles, Kevin Durant will return to a roster that also includes Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Joe Harris. In Nash's first season as a coach at any level, the Nets will almost certainly be expected to compete for the Eastern Conference title.