NBA has highest percentage of minority presidents in men's pro sports history

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NBA had seven black top executives among its 30 teams during the 2007-08 season, the highest percentage of minority presidents and CEOs in men's professional sports history.

The 23 percent of black executives, plus high ratios of women and black vice presidents, helped the NBA receive the first overall "A" among men's sports teams, according to the report issued Thursday by Richard Lapchick.

Lapchick, the head of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, has issued the report for nearly two decades. The seven black executives were three more than last year.

"It doesn't surprise me. It was a kind of gradual move toward that," Lapchick said.

The only other sport to receive an overall "A" has been the WNBA.

There were 12 black head coaches in the NBA last season. At 40 percent, it's the highest in all pro sports. A league-record 42 percent of assistant coaches were minorities.

The seven black presidents/CEOs were: Terdema Ussery, Dallas Mavericks; Fred Whitfield, Charlotte Bobcats; Steve Mills, New York Knicks; Billy King, Philadelphia 76ers; Larry Miller, Portland Trail Blazers; Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons; and Isiah Thomas, New York Knicks.

King was fired in December, Thomas in April. The Washington Wizards' Susan O'Malley, the first and only female president of an NBA franchise, stepped down last summer.

Charlotte's Robert Johnson remained the only black majority owner in men's pro sports.

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has his team in the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit.

"When you want to win, color doesn't really come into play. I think our league understands that as well as anybody," Rivers said. "I think our league has done a terrific job of hiring the best person. I think that's what we need to continue to do."

Three of the 12 coaches -- Charlotte's Sam Vincent, Dallas' Avery Johnson and Thomas -- were fired by the end of the season.

While there will be fewer black coaches next year, "it always balances out in the end," Lapchick said. "They might go down to 10 head coaches the next year, but they'll bounce back up to 13."

There have been 54 black head coaches in NBA history, more than twice as many as any other sport. MLB is second with 26 minority managers.

The NBA had 15 percent of its team vice presidents positions occupied by minorities.

Women comprised 41 percent of professional employees in the league office, higher than any other sport and an increase of 2 percentage points after three years of decline, the study said.

At the end of the season, 58 percent of the NBA referees were white, 37 percent black and 5 percent Latino. Violet Palmer is the lone female ref.

NBA officials did not immediately return e-mail or telephone messages.