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Adam Silver: NBA may not let older coaches sit on bench during games ‘to protect them’

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The NBA and commissioner Adam Silver are still finalizing details for the league’s restart plan next month at Disney World near Orlando, Florida — which was officially approved on Thursday by the Board of Governors.

While a number of COVID-19-related safety measures will be in place — including daily testing, games without fans and more — Silver said on TNT on Thursday night that it’s possible “certain coaches” may not be allowed to coach from the bench when play resumes “in order to protect them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that people who are 65 or older are at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus. Several coaches in the league are older than the CDC’s mark, including San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich at 71, Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni at 69 and New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry at 65.

[ Coronavirus: How the sports world is responding to the pandemic ]

Several general managers said that they felt uneasy last month about their team’s coaches, staff members and others who are over 60 attending games due to the increased risk, too.

“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,” one general manager said last month, speaking to ESPN anonymously. “Whether it’s a father of the star player or whether it’s the general manager of the team, they can’t go there.”

While nothing has been decided yet, Gentry doesn’t think it would be fair if he and other older coaches in the league were “singled out.”

“At the end of the day, they’re the league. They’re going to make the choice,” Gentry said, via ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “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.”

There were more than 1.8 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States as of Thursday night, according to The New York Times, and more than 108,000 deaths attributed to it.

Silver later walked his comments back a bit when speaking with Dallas Mavericks coach and president of the coaches association Rick Carlisle.

“I just spoke to Adam Silver and he admitted that he jumped the gun with his statement to TNT,” Carlisle, 60, said, via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. “The health and safety of our coaches is first and foremost. It’s entirely possible that an NBA coach in his 60s or 70s could be healthier than someone in their 30s or 40s. 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.”

What if a player tests positive?

Silver was asked on TNT what would happen if a player tested positive for the coronavirus during the playoffs?

The last time that happened, when Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive in March, Silver suspended league operations across the board almost instantly.

This time, though, Silver doesn’t think that will be the case. Should a player test positive at any point, he’s confident they will be able to contain him and allow teams to keep competing.

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“We don’t believe we would need to,” Silver said on TNT. “We’ve been dealing with a group of our experts plus public health authorities down in Florida now, and the view is that if we are testing every day and we’re able to trace in essence the contacts that player has had, we’re able to, in essence, contain that player and separate him from his team and we’re continuing to test every day, the belief is we would not have to shut down if a single player tested positive.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that older coaches may not be allowed to coach from the bench when play resumes in order to "protect them" from the coronavirus.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday that older coaches may not be allowed to coach from the bench when play resumes in order to "protect them" from the coronavirus. (Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

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