A prominent NBA reporter ripped the Nets' surprising hire of first-time coach Steve Nash as racially tone deaf.
Longtime ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith praised the 46-year-old as a "sensational dude," but said there were well-qualified black candidates with NBA resumes who were passed over for the inexperienced Nash.
"Congratulations to him," Smith said on ESPN's First Take program on Thursday morning. "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."
The shocking announcement of Nash's hire sent waves through the NBA, with many in the community weighing in to register their disbelief.
Former Nets star turned YES Network analyst Richard Jefferson appeared to disagree with Smith, noting that black candidates had made a similar jump in the past. The Nets hired Jason Kidd in 2013 as a newly retired former star player with no coaching experience, and Derek Fisher was hired by the Knicks under similar circumstances the following year.
Smith noted that his point had nothing to do with Nash specifically, calling him a "beautiful person" and touting his high basketball IQ and leadership working with troubled teammates. But there's always an excuse for why qualified black candidates have to watch jobs go to their white counterparts, Smith said.
"In these times where we're making all this noise about social justice .. I'm depressed right now, because I have to bring that up."