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Rick Carlisle defends older coaches’ right to attend games in Orlando

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Carlisle received assurances from Commissioner Adam Silver that he misspoke on the matter Thursday night.

NBA: Utah Jazz at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle leapt to defend his peers after NBA Commissioner Adam Silver insinuated that older coaches may not be allowed to sit on the bench with their teams at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where the NBA hopes to resume its 2019-20 season.

“I just spoke to Adam Silver and he admitted that he jumped the gun with his statement to TNT,” Carlisle said, as reported by ESPN.

Carlisle is quick to defend coaches’ interests. As well as performing his duties with the Mavericks, he is the President of the National Basketball Coaches Association. This is his fifteenth year in that role.

Thursday evening, Silver appeared on the TNT program Inside the NBA. During a wide-ranging interview about the league’s plans to restart its season, he mentioned the prospect of restricting “certain coaches” from sitting on the bench “in order to protect them.”

The thinking behind Silver’s statement draws on the age of some of the coaches around the association. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets is 69. Alvin Gentry, who coaches the New Orleans Pelicans, is 65.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, persons age 65 and older are at “higher risk for severe illness” from COVID-19. The entire point of the NBA traveling to Orlando is to limit the risk of exposure to coronavirus, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans.

Several NBA general managers also voiced their concerns about older coaches and personnel attending games recently. One GM, speaking anonymously, stated bluntly that anyone at risk shouldn’t be allowed to attend, period.

“Based on all the information that we have today, probably people over 60 with preexisting conditions can’t go, for sure, no matter what their titles are,” he told ESPN. “Whether it’s a father of the star player or whether it’s the general manager of the team, they can’t go there.”

That’s unlikely to happen. But it’s something that Gentry is already preparing himself to accept if necessary. The NBA hasn’t made a final ruling yet.

“At the end of the day, they’re the league,” Gentry told ESPN. “They’re going to make the choice. I think it’s unfair if that’s what they’re doing. I understand the risk that I’m taking if I do get it. But hell, I want to be with my team and do my job. That’s what they hired me for.”

Gentry will be in Orlando on the bench with the Pelicans, regardless of his age and health risk, if Carlisle has anything to say about it. He might not be a doctor like his wife, but Carlisle understands that it’s his duty to fight for the coaches’ ability to do their jobs.

“The health and safety of our coaches is first and foremost,” Carlisle continued. “It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60’s or 70’s could be healthier than someone in their 30’s or 40’s. The conversation should never be solely about a person’s age. Adam assured me that we would work through this together to help determine what is both safe and fair for all of our coaches.”