When Dwane Casey was a young boy growing up in rural Kentucky, he wasn’t allowed to swim in the town pool or play in its Little League.
At one time, the Toronto Raptors coach attended a blacks-only school. His grandfather Urey worked two jobs, the second of which was cleaning a hotel he wasn’t permitted to eat in.
Casey is 57, a reminder of how recently racial segregation divided the southern United States. Given his position at the top of his profession, Casey is also a reminder of how far we’ve all come.
Here he is, decades later, facing a question about the alleged comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, asked to react to bigotry in the midst of a sport he used as a tool to break down barriers.
“Coming through the 60s and 70s, living through racial discrimination and all the things we went through in those times, it’s hurtful,” Casey said on a Monday teleconference. “It shouldn’t have a place in the NBA, if the comments are true.”
While Casey is focused on his team’s series with the Brooklyn Nets -- which is knotted at two games apiece – he’s anxious to see NBA commissioner Adam Silver address the issue.
“I’m trusting and believing in Adam that he’ll do an excellent job of investigating it and bringing it to a head and putting a stop to those kinds of feelings,” said Casey. “I trust Adam, I know Adam, and I know what he stands for.”
Casey recalls the unsettling presence of the Ku Klux Klan in his hometown of Morganfield, Ky., when civil rights activist Dick Gregory came to speak on the courthouse steps. In 1975, Casey became just the fifth African-American to suit up for the University of Kentucky Wildcats, a team that, until the late 1960s, had been defiantly all-white.
The recent comments purported to be from the LA Clippers 80-year-old owner have Casey appreciating his own position all the more.
“When [MLSE Chairman and co-owner] Larry Tanenbaum walked into the locker room last night,” said Casey. “I was so thankful we have an owner like him because he’s a good man to the core.”