The National Basketball Coaches Association has conveyed to the league its concerns with a series of new medical standards and guidelines for the resumed season in Orlando, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Lowe and Wojnarowski outline, the NBA’s medical review process for coaches and other staffers will involve a team doctor reviewing a lengthy questionnaire on potential risk factors that will be completed by each individual. If the team doctor designates a staffer as “higher-risk,” that individual must receive clearance from relevant specialist physicians.
Even if the staffer receives that clearance, the NBA can flag the person to undergo an additional review with a league-appointed doctor and could prohibit them from going to Orlando if it’s determined that they “would present a direct threat to his or her health,” per ESPN.
According to Lowe and Wojnarowski, NBCA executive director Dave Fogel and president Rick Carlisle expressed concerns about the NBA having the power to prohibit coaches from doing their jobs, noting that being left out of this summer’s restart could “severely jeopardize” those coaches’ future employment opportunities. Three head coaches – Gregg Popovich, Mike D’Antoni, and Alvin Gentry – are at least 65 years old, as are several assistants around the league.
As ESPN’s report notes, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently stated that employers could stop employees from going to a workplace if their attendance “poses a direct threat to (the employee’s) health that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.”
The NBA’s policy mimics that “direct threat” language, likely in an effort to avoid a potential legal battle, though legal experts consulted by ESPN believe the league would have a hard time proving that “direct threat” standard, given all the measures being taken to increase safety in the Orlando bubble.
“We feel the medical review process is designed to flag only those individuals who pose significant threats of substantial harm to themselves that cannot be reduced or eliminated by the NBA’s considerable steps to create a healthy and safe atmosphere in Orlando,” the NBCA said in a statement, per ESPN. “Adam (Silver) and the NBA have created a situation in Orlando that is likely far safer than in our coaches’ home markets. Absent a significant threat, we believe a coach should be able to understand and assume their individual risks, waive liability, and coach in Orlando.”
D’Antoni and Gentry are represented by the same agent, Warren LeGarie, who told ESPN: “I hope there is a basketball solution to this issue rather than a legal one.”