The NBA office has assured the league’s coaches’ association that “age alone” will not be enough to prevent a coach from going to the Walt Disney World Resort for the restart of the season.
Individuals at high risk for serious coronavirus complications will not go, but simply being older, without other risks, won’t put someone in that category.
“Everybody goes through a screening process, but we’ve been assured by the league that no one will be red-flagged from going to Orlando based on age alone,” said Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association. “That was a very positive thing for us to hear, but as I said, everybody in all 22 markets — all staff, all players, everybody — goes through a significant screening process. We’ll see who ends up going, not going, etc. But we were very encouraged to hear that age alone would not be something that would keep you from going to Orlando.”
NBCA executive director David Fogel and Carlisle expressed concern in June that several assistants and three head coaches could be restricted from working in Orlando due to their age and that some could encounter challenges resuming their careers because of it. San Antonio‘s Gregg Popovich (71 years old), Houston‘s Mike D’Antoni (69) and New Orleans‘ Alvin Gentry (65) fall in that category.
D’Antoni reiterated Wednesday that he hadn’t heard anything recently from the league office regarding his intention to continue coaching the Rockets from the bench, as usual.
“Crickets!” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “Which is a good thing. I haven’t heard anything, and hopefully I don’t hear anything. They might be trying to get me. I’m not answering my phone or anything, so I’ll be in Orlando. I’ll just show up, knocking on the gate to get in.”
Gentry said Tuesday that he expects to coach the Pelicans in Orlando. New Orleans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said “that is to be determined” but added he has no reason to believe Gentry would not be able to go.
The 113-page health and safety protocols sent to teams last month outlined a multilayered process for the identification and potential “protection” of team employees designated as higher risk. All team staffers will fill out a questionnaire regarding individual risk factors, including asthma, heart problems, ongoing cancer treatments, smoking habits, a body mass index above 40 as a measure of obesity, kidney or liver diseases, and other indications of a compromised immune system.
A doctor selected by the team must review each questionnaire. The staffer must then provide a letter from a doctor — which could be the team doctor or the staffer’s personal doctor — clearing that person to go to Orlando, the protocols state. If the team designates any staffer as higher risk, that staffer must also obtain letters from relevant specialist physicians.
Even if a higher-risk staffer satisfies those requirements — and receives approval from his or her team to go to Orlando — the league, per the protocols, can flag that person and have him or her undergo a second review with “one or more physicians appointed by the NBA.” If that doctor or panel determines the staffer “would present a direct threat to his or her health” in Orlando, the league can prohibit that person from going, according to the protocols.
“I get why they want to be cautious,” D’Antoni said. “I appreciate it, and that’s great. At the end of the day, it’s almost like, well, let me go to a safe environment. Do you want to keep me out of that safe environment? It’s like, ‘Wait a minute, let me in! This is great.’
“So we’ll see how it goes, but other than being a little bit older, I’m ready to go. There’s nothing else that I’d have a red flag or anything like that, so I expect to go and I expect that it’ll be an unbelievably great experience and safe.”
Information from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was used in this report.