Do black NBA coaches have a harder time getting hired and an easier time getting fired? Not according to a new University of Michigan study, though it did find that white coaches with losing records got slightly longer opportunities before being fired than black coaches.
The study found no difference in "technical efficiency" by race of coach, and found no evidence that there are differences in firings based on race, says lead researcher Rodney Fort, U-M professor in the Division of Kinesiology.
Fort claims the NBA is the most integrated professional sport, so the results are not all that surprising. The study says the market for coaches in the NBA works like any other healthy labor market is ideally supposed to work - coaches must win. The researchers used a scoring system to calculate current coach's value, or technical efficiency, by how many wins were produced.
Many owners already use a score system, since the league average score was about 13 percent higher than the average score of fired coaches, according to the paper. This is a valuable tool when setting salaries, Fort said.
Fort and colleagues looked at 27 coaches of color over a three-year period. They chose the NBA because there are enough African American coaches to have a reliable research sample, Fort said. In contrast, an earlier study of hiring and firing NFL coaches found racial disparity, Fort said, but there were only five black coaches in the NFL sample.
"The only strange thing about race that we came up with is that of the coaches who were fired, white coaches seemed to have a little bit longer tenure," Fort said. In other words, losing white coaches may get a slight benefit of the doubt relative to black coaches. Fort stressed this as an area for future research.
Fort states there may be other types of racism in professional sports and the study looked at only one type over a three-year period. Racism may be present in hiring or salary decisions in the NBA, or in the more general networking relationships among players and coaches, he said.
Article: Rodney Fort, Young Hoon Lee, and David Berri, "Race, Technical Efficiency, and Retention: The Case of NBA Coaches," International Journal of Sport Finance.