Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Friday, October 30, 2009

Are the Indiana Pacers too white?

The whitening of the Indiana Pacers continues. Now it’s extended beyond the court and into the front office. The Indiana Pacers recently fired Director of Player Personnel Mel Daniels. Reportedly Daniels had problems with the general manager, Larry Bird and head coach Jim O’Brien.

President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird issued the following before showing Daniels the door. "Mel was a great basketball player who helped make the Pacers a well-known basketball franchise. We wish him well."

Daniels has been involved with the Indiana Pacer franchise for the last 40 years. To be fired in this manner is simply classless by the organization.

With the firing of Daniels coupled with a roster that includes Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Josh McRoberts, Travis Diener, Jeff Foster and first-round pick Tyler Hansbrough one has to wonder if the Indiana Pacers are meticulously making the organization too white.

Are they?

The Pacers drafted Tyler Hansbrough with the 13th pick overall. Was he the best player available or the right type of player?

Hansbrough could surprise us like Michael Jordan did and become another Larry Bird. I don’t think so. Perhaps he’ll be a poor mans Kevin McHale. If he’s lucky he could have a journeymen career like Christian Laettner. Time will tell but I don’t think he will be the savior of the Pacer franchise.

Five years ago Jim Gray did an interview with Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Carmello Anthony and LeBron James. During the interview Bird issued the following about having white players in the NBA. “Well, I think so. I think so. You know when I played you had me and Kevin (McHale) and some others throughout the league. I think it’s good for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited . . .”
Is race a factor here?

Sounds like it to me.

What Bird suggested has some level of practicality from an economical standpoint. It’s a fact the vast majority of the fans are white. But where do you draw the line between becoming too white as opposed to getting the best players to win irrespecitve of the fan base?

Bird played his entire career for the Boston Celtics. Boston has a history of treating African American players less than ideal. Just ask Bill Russell.

The Celtics had a stable of white players on those great teams Bird played on. There’s the likes of Jerry Schisting, Danny Ainge, Rick Robey, Chris Ford, Jim Paxon, Scott Wedman, and Bill Walton to name a few. But this isn’t the 1980’s. Times have changed.

Is Bird having a mid-life crisis as a front-office man in trying to rekindle his Boston days by whitening the Pacers?

Say as you wish, the Daniels firing, Birds statements about the fan base, and the racial composition of the team suggests there’s enough credence to assert race has played a factor in the recent descisions the organization has made.

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