When Jason Kidd was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers as the first assistant under new head coach Frank Vogel, there were questions about why the team did not just hire the Hall of Fame point guard to be the lead man given their infatuation with him. The reports in the aftermath suggested that the team had concerns about the perception of his domestic violence history but somehow felt that being an assistant would alleviate those issues.
On Monday, Vogel spoke to reporters about those concerns after his introductory press conference, saying it was an issue that he discussed with Kidd at length:
Frank Vogel said he went through an extensive interview process with Jason Kidd, talked about a lot of things with him. Said his history of domestic abuse was a concern, they talked about it, and Vogel was convinced Kidd has addressed it and put it behind him.
— Kyle Goon (@kylegoon) May 20, 2019
Frank Vogel says he briefly discussed Jason Kidd’s history of domestic violence issues with Kidd. Said it’s in the past and he believes Kidd is in a different place now.
— Tania Ganguli (@taniaganguli) May 20, 2019
There are a few issues with this.
First of all, Vogel should not be the person expected to give these comments. Kidd’s employers, the Lakers management, should be the ones explaining to reporters why they were okay with hiring an abuser to an assistant coaching position but not a head coaching one. Vogel comes off as the adult in the room, as he did throughout his press conference, but the Lakers continue to look awful in light of their coaching search.
Secondly, it’s important to have the difficult discussion about Kidd supposedly being past that. Kidd pled guilty to charges of domestic violence against his pregnant wife. The details are very gruesome and triggering so we will not include them in this story but you can find them online.
Abusers almost always wax poetic about putting their mistakes behind them and changing for the better. Sometimes, they do and that’s obviously a good thing. Sometimes, they do not and continue to be abusive.
I’m not here to pass judgment on Jason Kidd and deem whether he is a better person now than he was then. While I believe in being forgiving and giving second chances, I’m not sure how I feel about that second chance being in a high-profile and high-paying position. Again, I’m not here to pass judgment on that.
However, I think a very clear judgment can be made on the Lakers about their handling of such an issue. If the organization believes he has moved on and become a better person and finds that redeeming enough to hire him, then so be it.
But they need to be strong enough in that judgment to speak about their decision and justify it. It likely would never be a good enough answer but it would be better than hiding behind your new head coach and making him responsible for answering to the media and fanbase at large about why the organization decided to hire someone with such a dark past. That’s especially true when the team’s previous head coach is being sued for sexual assault.
From a basketball standpoint, Vogel seems to be on the same page with Kidd, at least for now, and has spoken about working with the organization to hire the rest of his staff. That’s going to be a crucial development from now until training camp as the Lakers try to find some form of stability starting with the new face of their management in Vogel.