Congrats to Paul Pierce & Coach Bill Russell who are finalists for this year's NBA Hall of Fame class
Finalists from the NBA for the 2021 @Hoophall class announced today: Chris Bosh, Michael Cooper, Tim Hardaway, Marques Johnson, Paul Pierce, Ben Wallace and Chris Webber ... plus Rick Adelman and Bill Russell in the coaching category.
Paul Pierce's inclusion needs no explanation, but the inclusion of Bill Russell might surprise some. Yes he was a coach and yes he was a good coach. He won two championships in 3 seasons for the Celtics as their coach in the 1970's. Some might say, "Well that's because he got to coach himself!" A. That's unfair since Red Auerbach who is considered the greatest NBA coach in history and deservedly so, only won championships with Russell as well. And Red got the younger and prime versions of Russell.
Being the player/coach and winning titles I believe makes that success even more impressive. And it's not like you had 10 assistant coaches back then. It was a 2nd full time job that you also during games had to do both jobs simultaneously. While Russell's overall coaching winning percentage is very impressive, he did not have the same success coaching the Sonics and Kings in future years. My guess is that's the Hall of Fame's rationale/excuse in prior years for omitting Russell. But lots of coaches that won championships in one place failed to then win in their future locals. Honestly my brain is drawing a blank on anyone other than Phil Jackson. And Russell did't have Kobe and Shaq on those Sonics and Kings team.
Also of note, Bill Russell became the first Black coach in any of the four major American sports. So he paved the way there and his two titles in his first three seasons likely led to additional Black coaches being hired. Because even racist owners want to win right? See Donald Sterling for a mopre recent example. The last three Boston Celtics titles have been won by Black head coaches in K.C. Jones and Doc Rivers. So I think Russell's two championships bear more weight than let's say Rudy Tomjanovich's who won his pair in the 1990's and was inducted last year. And that's not a slight on Rudy T, he derverved his induction.
Also it should be mentioned that in addition to the two full time jobs of playing and coaching, the climate was a different place then and I'm sure Russell received plenty of racist vitriol.
We'll have more coming up to honor Paul Pierce, but just figured he was the no brainer everyone would assume and Russell deserved more background analysis.