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Published: Sunday, 2/9/2003

NFL needs to check NBA for hiring model

The Detroit Lions should not be penalized for hiring Steve Mariucci as their new coach without interviewing a single minority candidate.

Mariucci was the Lions' No. 1 candidate. Dennis Green, the former Minnesota Vikings coach who happens to be African-American, was available but Mariucci was clearly the top candidate among coaches who coached in the NFL last season.

If the Lions had interviewed a minority candidate to satisfy the league's policy to consider at least one minority candidate for every coaching vacancy and still hired Mariucci, it would have been a sham.

Mariucci was the Lions' man all the way. Any minority candidate interviewed by the Lions would have been a token all the way.

The NFL should be condemned for its shameful minority hiring practices in a league in which 70 percent of its players are African-American. But doing the bidding of civil-rights attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran comes across as being self-serving and out of touch.

If the NFL is really serious and wants to do the right thing and bridge the gap, so to speak, in the area of minority hiring, commissioner Paul Tagliabue must copy the blueprint developed by NBA commissioner David Stern.

There is no other answer for Tagliabue. Any other solution coming from his mouth is politically-correct window-dressing.

The biggest difference I can tell between the NFL and the NBA in the area of minority employment is that the NFL puts the hiring of a head coach - a grown man coaching a child's game - on a par with developing a cure for cancer.

In the NBA, coaches come and coaches go.

Some are good, some are bad.

Some are white, some are African-American.

Following a mandate established by Stern, coaches are considered coaches - regardless of their race.

African-Americans are just as likely as white coaches to be hired in the NBA. There are currently 12 African-American coaches out of 29 possible jobs.

Even more important to my way of thinking, African-American coaches are just as likely to be fired as their white counterparts.

Already, two African-American coaches have been fired out of a total of three coaches who have been let go this season.

Memphis fired Sidney Lowe and replaced him with Hubie Brown, a white coach. Cleveland fired John Lucas and replaced him with Keith Smart, an African-American coach.

Those no-comments from Corhran and Mehri following the firings of Lucas and Lowe were deafening.

There were no protests about the firing of two African-American coaches because, unlike the NFL, the NBA operates under a system of checks and balances.

Coaches who win keep their jobs. Coaches who lose are fired.

And sometimes coaches who lose are re-hired in the NBA. Lucas and Lowe were coaches in previous stints before their latest dismissals.

The NFL should be taken to task for the lack of opportunities for minority coaches. If Tagliabue has a conscience, he must use his leverage to influence change.



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