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NBA Asst. GM: Bulls' Lack of Black Candidates in Exec Search 'Slap in the Face'

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 9, 2020

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JANUARY 20:  A detailed view of the Chicago Bulls logo during a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Chicago Bulls at Fiserv Forum on January 20, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Bulls have reportedly been connected with no fewer than eight people in search of someone to be their head of basketball operations. Seven of the eight are white men, with the exception of Toronto Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, whose mother is Japanese.

No black candidates are at least publicly known, and numerous black executives expressed frustrations about the Bulls' search to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

"That is a slap in the face," one assistant GM said to Spears. "Their worst is still being considered over our best. The league is going to have to do something. It does get frustrating."

Only six black general managers for 30 NBA teams (20 percent) work in a league where 75 percent of its players are black, per Spears. There is just one black president (the Toronto Raptors' Masai Ujiri).

The GM number may fall to five if the New York Knicks, who just fired team president Steve Mills, decide to anoint a different GM under the administration of new president Leon Rose. SNY.tv's Ian Begley reported Saturday that he believed current GM Scott Perry would hold "some role in some way, shape or form" under Rose next year.

There isn't a shortage of black candidates to run the Bulls, with Spears listing numerous assistant GMs. The Dallas Mavericks' Michael Finley (two-time NBA All-Star), Troy Weaver of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Milt Newton of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Denver Nuggets' Calvin Booth arguably stand out the most for their work to help form playoff- (and, in the Bucks' case, championship-) caliber teams.

"The NBA and its teams tell us to keep working and you will move up the ladder," one NBA assistant general manager told Spears. "I have more than 15 years of experience as a team executive. But how am I supposed to feel encouraged if the Bulls won't even give any African Americans a chance to interview for that job?"

The Bulls haven't finished better than 42-40 over the past five years, and whoever lands the job will have a tall task turning the franchise around in hopes of better days. Expanding the pool more couldn't hurt a team in search of a new direction in the soon-to-be post-John Paxson and Gar Forman era.

"It's an embarrassment that the Bulls elected not to interview a minority candidate in their search for a new head of basketball operations," ex-Brooklyn Nets GM Bobby Marks said. "You will never know what you have or could have hired, unless you sit down with them and have a face-to-face conversation."

The question is whether the NBA could benefit from its own version of the Rooney Rule, which mandates that NFL teams must interview one minority candidate at minimum for senior football operation and head coach positions.

While that rule has endured its own scrutiny (and may undergo changes), the prospect of something similar for the NBA has been brought up in the past.

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said the following last April after the Sacramento Kings hired former Los Angeles Lakers coach Luke Walton:

"I mean, do I need to start calling for a 'Rooney Rule' in basketball? I mean, see, this is stuff like this that really gets on my nerves because I'm gonna say it again: This don't happen for black men. This don't happen for minorities, this kind of stuff. Somebody needs to say it, so damn it, I'm gonna say it. The reality of the situation is that Luke Walton has won 40 percent of his games. Did he get screwed over in LA? Without question. I don't like what happened to him this year and I'm happy he got the job, but you don't even leave the facility before you are in negotiations."

Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman also suggested something similar to Katherine Fitzgerald of the Arizona Republic in May 2018 that would include a provision for interviewing women as well.

As for now, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is the "clear frontrunner" for the Bulls' job.

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