NBA Coach Ray Scott on building community, leading a team, and breaking barriers

Aug 17, 2022, 6:30 PM | Updated: Aug 18, 2022, 12:31 pm

FILE: Head Coach Ray Scott of the Detroit Pistons  watches his team from the bench circa 1972 durin...

FILE: Head Coach Ray Scott of the Detroit Pistons watches his team from the bench circa 1972 during an NBA game. Copyright 1972 NBAE (Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — Ray Scott, former Detroit Pistons player and the first Black man named the NBA’s Coach of the Year, joined Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson to discuss his successful career and what he learned while fighting for civil rights. 

Scott reflected on his childhood in the 1950s and said that, at 12 years, old he visited Washington D.C. and witnessed segregation for the first time.  

“Segregation was an operative for me as I got older and recognized more things …. I’m a kid from South Philly, lived in a third-floor walk-up, our neighborhood was integrated, so I didn’t know anything about all these major issues,” Scott explained to Boyd. 


Scott’s road to cultural understanding, and to the NBA

Furthermore, Scott recalled reading about the murder of Emmett Till, in the mid-50s. He said Till’s story had a major impact on his life. Then, going forward from that experience, he learned more about the deep south and civil rights protests after World War II, to further educate himself. 

Scott said that learning about the deep-rooted segregation in the United States inspired him to bring awareness to the issue both in terms of the NBA and society in general. 

Following a successful basketball career, in 1974 at age 37 Scott became the league’s first Black Coach of the Year. He believes this helped pave the way for similar opportunities in other sports and break down racial barriers in the game.

And he told Boyd that his vision at the time wouldn’t have been realized if not for his players and their belief in his goals. 

According to Detroit Free Press, another Black coach wouldn’t be named Coach of the Year until Don Chaney in 1991.

Scott shares more of his experiences in his book “The NBA in Black and White: the memoir of a trailblazing NBA player and coach.” Along with his own experiences, he includes the history of other prominent Black figures in professional basketball and the impact they had. 

More about Ray Scott

Ray Scott was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1938. He played for the Detroit Pistons from 1961 through 1967. He coached the Detroit Pistons from 1972 to 1976.

With the Pistons he averaged 16.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, before retiring in 1972 according to the Detroit Free Press. After Scott took over as head coach, the Pistons went 38-37 in the 1972-1973 NBA season.


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NBA Coach Ray Scott on building community, leading a team, and breaking barriers