- Listen to Ron's Interview with Ray Scott -
A Trailblazing Basketball Player & Coach Remembers the Early NBA
As a child in the 1940s in Philadelphia, Ray Scott idolized the Harlem Globetrotters, whom he credits with introducing him to professional basketball in an era when it was a predominantly white spectator sport. So when he was drafted by the National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons in 1961 he was already familiar with the Black ground-breakers in the League, figures like Earl Lloyd, the first Black man to play in an NBA game. Little did he expect that just over a decade later he would become a coach, and soon a basketball icon himself, as the first Black coach to be named the NBA’s Coach of the Year. In today’s episode, Ray Scott talks about his experiences as a player and coach—and much more—that he recounts in his new memoir, “The NBA in Black and White: The Memoir of a Trailblazing NBA Player and Coach.” He will offer a storied history of several other prominent Black players of his time, including Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Roberson and Bill Russell, and the impact they had transforming the game. Along with his favorite memories as player and coach, Ray will detail his formative role in the creation of the modern-day NBA through his contribution in establishing the NBA players’ union in the 1960s. He’ll provide his perspective on issues of racial discrimination and integration over his lifespan, including his involvement in the civil rights movement, from meeting Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to working alongside Coretta Scott King. And finally, Ray will talk about how he transitioned from his NBA years into a successful post-basketball life of business and social service.
A Philadelphia native, John Raymond (Ray) Scott began his college basketball career at the University of Portland. Then, after three seasons in the professional Eastern Basketball League, he was chosen as the 4th pick in the 1961 National Basketball Association draft by the Detroit Pistons. He spent six years with the Pistons as a stand-out rebounder and deadly shooter from the perimeter, and another five years playing for the Baltimore Bullets and the Virginia Squires. Then, in October 1972, Scott was promoted from Assistant to Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons, thanks in part to strong support from former coach Earl Lloyd who, a decade earlier, had scouted Scott and recommended that he be the Pistons top pick. Two years later he became the first Black coach to be named NBA Coach of the Year. From 1976 to 1979, Scott was Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Eastern Michigan University. After his coaching career, Scott went into private business. He also has held the position of ambassador for children and families for the Wellspring Lutheran service agency in Michigan. In 2008, Scott was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and was named one of the “30 All-Time Pistons.”