By Joe Scalzo
and Kevin Connelly
Youngstown State University senior Kendrick Perry has known Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers for more than a decade.
An Orlando, Fla., native, Perry started playing AAU basketball with his son, Austin Rivers, at age 11 and has been to the Rivers’ house multiple times.
So when Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught on tape making racist comments in recent days, Perry could think of no better coach to handle the fallout than Rivers, who has been critical of Sterling while attempting to keep his team united during its first-round playoff series.
“He was the perfect person to handle it,” Perry said. “He’s always been a leader, he’s always been vocal, and I think the way he handled things, especially in a situation like this, was perfect.”
On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million, a punishment that has drawn raves from those inside the NBA — and from Perry, an NBA hopeful.
“I loved it,” said Perry, a three-time first-team All-Horizon League selection. “I think it sends a great message. It’s 2014. Racism has to stop.
“That’s a tough situation for anybody to be in, but I think what Adam Silver did was a great start to his career.”
Ursuline High School boys basketball coach Keith Gunther was shocked at how quickly the league moved on its decision, but extremely satisfied with the outcome.
“It sets a tone not only for the older generation, but for the younger generations that those types of attitudes aren’t going to be tolerated, whether you’re black or white,” Gunther said. “If it would have been stated the other way, I don’t think it’s OK.
“Our country has come so far beyond that for someone to think like that, then have employees that are primarily black — both working for them and playing for them — is just an outrage.”
Gunther has experience in handling diversity with relation to his Ursuline basketball team. With players from different cultures and different parts of society, Gunther says he’s talked to his team about race.
“Sometimes it’s really good for us to be integrated, because you learn so much from each other,” Gunther said. “Some people look at it as a negative and I think that’s a shame. We can learn so much from each other, and I think that’s one of the greatest things about Ursuline.”
Racial discrimination in society has lessened, according to Gunther, but it’s comments like Sterling’s that show it’s still prevalent.
“As you can see, we still got some steps that we have to take to continue to progress in the right direction,” Gunther said. “I can tell you that’s a step forward what the NBA did to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t going to be tolerated in America anymore. It’s not going to happen no matter how much money you have.’”
Current Warren Harding football coach and former basketball coach Steve Arnold, who is black, added: “I’ve encountered racism as a head coach, but you deal with it. It makes you angry, but sports is just a small piece of what we deal with every day.”