After Donald Trump’s big day in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania last November, a group of committed patriots launched Popovich Kerr 2020— a non-partisan, grassroots movement of NBA fans and American citizens that are demanding more mature, thoughtful, and inspiring leadership in Washington, DC *swipes right*. Popovich Kerr 2020 sells merchandise, and donates the proceeds to six nonprofits fighting Trump’s agenda and advocating for worthy causes. Popovich Kerr 2020 is a marvelous brainchild, but it’s time to expand their vision for America.
Let’s pretend we live in an alternative universe.
It’s 2019 and the Democrats are still looking for a presidential nominee. Steve Kerr, I choose you— a humble, thoughtful, engaging person with progressive values. It’s a low bar for President of the United States, but it’s 2019, baby. I’ll take what I can get. Sorry Coach Pop, in this universe or the real world, you would be a horrible political candidate. More on that later.
Steve Kerr -- "this is my rant" -- for 2+ minutes on the presidential election: "Maybe we should've seen this coming" pic.twitter.com/MJOcSdXxHH— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) November 10, 2016
Let’s get this out of the way: Kerr’s nomination would surely catalyze the next Fox News controversy with another vintage birth certificate fiasco. Kerr was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Never forget *Ted Cruz was born in Calgary.* Sean Hannity already ordered an intern to photoshop pictures of Kerr’s birth certificate and changed his middle name to Hussein—truly not outside the realm of possibility. Let’s assume this controversy occurs the June before the election year and not eleven days before the election (cc: James Comey).
To make his administration a reality, Kerr will need more than his good looks, charm and eloquent voice. Assuming he can’t find a dream team of Russian hackers, Kerr will need to assemble a campaign team to get him the ultimate W, or at least a plane ticket to Wisconsin.
As long as we are in this pretend world, let’s say Kerr goes along with Popovich Kerr 2020, and refuses to form a team of hackneyed D.C. political operatives. Instead he handpicks a group of people who are even more detached from society, and are even more obsessed with the minutiae of their work: coaches.
Vice Presidential Nominee: Muffet McGraw, Women’s Head Basketball Coach, Notre Dame: Yeah, this got obscure quickly. She’s the best coach on Notre Dame’s campus and a definite play for the midwest vote with a proven track record. The Notre Dame women’s basketball coach has compiled over 700 wins, and has cultivated players such as Ruth Riley, Jacqueline Batteast, and Skylar Diggins. Muffet is also the coolest first name in electoral politics history. She beat out Dave Roberts, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ manager, for the nomination.
Campaign Manager: Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach, Michigan Football
Lock in those 16 electoral votes from Michigan because the man has been a raging success everywhere he’s coached. Like any talented campaign manager, Harbaugh will push Kerr to be his best self, but hopefully he won’t overdo it. Just picture campaign huddles with Harbaugh, manically berating his colleagues to “attack each day with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” For the Kerr 2020 campaign videos, Harbaugh may even be able to recruit James Earl Jones to narrate all the campaign ads.
Senior Adviser: Mike Brown, Assistant Coach, Golden State Warriors,
Kerr entrusted the whole team to Brown during his complications post-back surgery. As Coach 2.0 this past season, Brown understands Kerr’s leadership style better than anyone. In a post-Bannon world, Brown will renew the honor of the senior adviser position.
Director of Field Organizing/not allowed at fundraisers: Tom Thibodeau, Head Coach, Minnesota Timberwolves
Thibodeau is known as one of the hardest working coaches in sports and the Kerr campaign will need relentless organizing. However, due to his unparalleled intensity, Thibodeau won’t actually be allowed to interact with volunteers. Phone-bankers and door-knockers will quit in the initial stages of the campaign because the yelling is just too much. Never fear, Thibs will learn to delegate, and obsessively strategize in his office with an IV of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shooting into his bicep.
Director of Communications: Joe Maddon, Manager, Chicago Cubs
Maddon is the coolest cat in coaching and is the most similar team member to Kerr—laid back, funny, approachable. His political skills will lie in deflecting unwanted drama away from Kerr. Additionally, he’s the craftsman of slogans like, “That’s Cub,” “Embrace the target,” “Be present, not perfect,” and “Try not to suck.” My personal favorite is “Do not permit the pressure to exceed the pleasure.” In addition to strong communications strategy, Maddon founded the Hazleton Integration Project in his Pennsylvania hometown—his priorities are in the right place.
Press Secretary: Gregg Popovich, Head Coach, San Antonio Spurs
Finally, back to our man. For Popovich, Press Secretary, not President, plays to his strengths. Popovich has mentored Kerr for years and would be an integral part of the campaign staff. He also recruited other coaching/political hybrids (see below) for the team. He’s been winning NBA championships for a long time and would make Sean Spicer look like a sweetheart, but at least he’d tell the truth.
Director of Policy: Becky Hammon, Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs
Hammon is part of the Spurs contingent on the Kerr campaign and would be a fantastic addition to the team. As the first salaried female coach in NBA history—with a team rooted in a winning, analytical system— she’s fought through the gender divide in professional sports. Her experience makes her an ideal person to advocate for Kerr policies grounded in equity.
Director of Fundraising: Dawn Staley, Head Coach, South Carolina Women’s Basketball
Staley is fresh off winning the 2017 Women’s NCAA Tournament (and beat UConn on the way). In the spring, the three-time gold medal winner was also named head coach of Team USA’s women’s squad. Staley also has experience on the financial side—as coach of Temple she started the Dawn Staley Foundation, which funded recreational, after-school programming for middle schoolers in Philadelphia. Her success as a player, a coach, and as a citizen make her an awesome choice for the post. Also, check out this dope video.
Director of Battleground States: Ron Rivera, Head Coach, Carolina Panthers
Rivera is the one of two Latinx coaches in the NFL and has a storied background. The Californian attended Berkeley, was a backup linebacker on the 1985 Superbowl Champion Chicago Bears and therefore he can gorge on free Italian Beef for the rest of his life. He also led the Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2016. Rivera is also one the few members of the campaign team with a southern connection, and Kerr is gunning for North Carolina.
Political Consultant: Chip Engelland, Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs, aka The Shot Doctor
One of Popovich’s top assistants and a Kerr mentor, Engelland is another Spurs coach on the campaign team, but as a lead consultant. Once upon a time, the Duke alum, and former high school boyfriend of Jeannie Buss (HOLY SHIT RIGHT?!), even improved Kerr’s shooting ability. Under his tutelage, Grant Hill, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard developed into worthy shooters. The “Machine Gun” as he’s known in the Philippines, will do whatever it takes behind the scenes for a Kerr 2020 victory.
Here’s the Problem
When setting out to form the Kerr 2020 team, the goal was to bring together the best, most interesting coaches in sports. This is a start. But the problem with the Kerr 2020 campaign is that the team is not demographically representative of the athletes in college and pro sports or even of the United States’ population.
In the NBA, over 70 percent of the league is black, but less than a third of coaches are black. The NFL tried to increase diversity for head coaches by instituting the Rooney Rule, which mandates teams interview a coach of color in head coach searches, but the pathways to an NFL head coaching job are still blocked.
Only three managers in MLB are men of color. It’s not new, but there’s a massive equity problem in coaching.
For women it is an even steeper uphill battle to reach the top of the coaching ranks. There is not a single woman who is a head coach in the four major men’s sports. Across women’s college sports, only 40 percent of coaches are women. In NCAA women’s basketball, black women make up almost 50 percent of the players, but only 10.9 percent of coaches.
When the vast majority of coaches are white males, it teaches white males that they can be coaches. Great, we’ve been teaching white dudes they can do and be whatever they want since the beginning of time. What about a young black woman who wants to coach men’s football? What about a Latinx man who wants to coach baseball? Coaches matter because they empower others to see what is possible.
Our collective utopia has always encouraged us to separate sports from politics. Regardless of one’s race, religion or creed, no one should be judged beyond what happens on the field. Yet the lives of Jackie Robinson, Muhammad Ali, Pat Summitt, and now, Colin Kaepernick, prove there is still a long road before we reach that point.
So when we return from the alternate universe of Kerr 2020, and look beyond the White House, let’s hope sports will illuminate a vision of a better, more just world.
Bill Barnwell at formerly Grantland.com