George Karl isn’t sorry, but he’s close. He’s also probably close to telling himself yet again that he has nothing to be sorry about, but at the very least the longtime NBA head coach does appear to be fretting over the wording of the actual words he wrote (or, at least, tacitly approved of) in his own memoir.
You’ll recall that Karl’s book ‘Furious George’ set off a maelstrom of media attention late in 2016, especially with the inclusion of a passage that paints former Nuggets Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin as wayward sorts due to the lack of a father figure in their lives growing up. Martin went on to destroy the “coward” Karl in a series of resultant tweets, and while Anthony took the high road from his perch high atop Madison Square Garden, that didn’t stop the rest of the NBA from coming down on Karl en masse.
In talking with USA Today’s Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt recently, though, Karl appears to have taken a small turn as he re-appraises a memoir that wasn’t even released until Tuesday:
When asked if he regretted how he phrased anything, Karl said “I think the one thing is (the) fatherhood (comments). Fatherhood is very important to me, and I made that a target. It seems like that was the one thing, and I said it poorly, I wrote it poorly, it’s read poorly in the book.
And my whole thing is the one thing I regret probably most is some of the mothers (being offended). Kenyon Martin’s mother is one of the great mothers, superstar mothers of the NBA, and I would never want to take anything away from some of the special families and also special mothers.”
Nothing about the players, whom he derided as terrible professionals based mostly on the addition of a father-less childhood being coupled with the fact that a basketball forward and basketball coach didn’t see eye-to-eye on things.
But Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money, and no father to show them how to act like a man. As you’ve read, I grew up in a safe suburban neighborhood, with both my parents. I had a second father in my college coach, the most moral, decent man I ever knew. And I never made enough money as a player to get confused about who I was. When I compare my background to Kenyon’s and Carmelo’s, it’s no wonder we had a few problems.
This is where George Karl tries to save himself, peeling off a layer of dead skin cells in order to give off the whiff of empathy. It’s no wonder Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin never figured life out as pros, because they never had fathers. All while George Karl – athletic, of sound height for a point guard, a multi-sport athlete in high school – had it perpetually easy due to the presence of his own father, prior to joining Dean Smith at North Carolina.
North Carolina is where former Nuggets guard J.R. Smith declined to play for a season or two, for free, after signing a letter of intent with the school prior to eventually deciding to jump to the NBA straight out of high school in the penultimate year that the league allowed for such things. His problem, according to Karl, was that his father was too present:
J.R. had a slightly different story. He went straight from high school in New Jersey to AAU success to the NBA. His father was on the scene and in his life, which is obviously good. But Earl Smith Jr. urged his son to shoot the ball and keep shooting it from the very moment I put him in a game, which is obviously bad.
In his defense, sometimes J.R. can make it from anywhere and score in bunches. But I wanted defense and commitment to the team. What I got was a player with a huge sense of entitlement, a distracting posse, his eye always on his next contract, and some really unbelievable shot selection.
J.R. Smith forever had eyes on his next contract due to multiple financial issues that were no secret around the NBA around the time of the 2011 NBA lockout, and his final years with the Nuggets.
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Though J.R. missed out on some of the “next father figure up”-guidance that Carmelo Anthony took in from Jim Boeheim at Syracuse for a season and Kenyon Martin accrued from Bob Huggins over four years at Cincinnati (please, save your laughter for the comment section), he somehow landed in the same lap of dissent despite coming home from the store with completely different assembly parts in his kit bag.
Smith had, and continues to have, on-court issues that drive coaches batty. Phil Jackson was wrong in the way he chided Carmelo Anthony earlier this year for his ball-stopping ways, but not in the overall (if somewhat outdated) scouting report. Kenyon Martin was no fun to deal with.
Kenyon Martin also limped into the NBA on a broken leg that could have ended his pro career before it even started. He broke his other leg during his rookie year in New Jersey, with Stephon Marbury and the popcorn-downing Stephen Jackson as his veteran leaders. Martin worked through two microfracture surgeries to sustain an NBA career on top of those two twisted pines that counted as legs for the undersized power forward, a setback no other NBA player has overcome.
Carmelo Anthony? His career could have gone better. He also spent his best years going up against the maddest Western Conference the league has ever seen, with Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki trading blows all while Tim Duncan beamed from on high. In 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers even managed to pair Pau Gasol with Kobe Bryant. Making your way in the world back then took everything you had.
To minimize the multitude of struggles and potential mitigating factors into a strict, “no dad, no deal” sublimation loses sight of so many things that it’s hard to accurately detail all the missteps, even given the space of the world wide web or the 256 pages Karl was allowed in his own (second) book.
If you want to take the time and financial support that a publishing company gave you and use that to talk up some unhinged theories about why people who grew up as only children shouldn’t be allowed to fly planes, have at it. Got some thoughts on why those that were denied sweets as a child make the best (or worst!) pastry chefs? Write that stuff down. Any interest in counting a kid’s freckles before you decide whether or not to start him at point guard? Do your thing, Doctor.
Nobody’s getting in the way of letting George Karl (who is probably the only coach we’ve ever heard refer to himself in the third person) say what he feels, but individual owners of 30 different NBA teams working in a private league might also feel a certain way.
Those that follow the league closely know that just about every team owner felt that “certain way” prior to Sacramento’s hiring of Karl in 2015, the Kings just got him because they’re “the Kings.” To those of you checking in from other sports to pick up on the latest bon mot George Karl just deplorably demonstrated, understand that the Kings are our version of whatever lost at sea franchise your favorite sport already boasts.
George Karl re-iterated in his discussion with USA Today that he would like another head coaching job in the NBA, in order to add to his total of 1175 career wins, and that he “would be totally and completely open to” meeting with Mssrs. Anthony, Martin and Smith in order to clear the air with his former players.
Don’t bet on it. Those players, and the heaps of others (along with fellow coaches and NBA executives) owe George Karl absolutely none of their time. A rough realization, for a former coach that still believes the NBA owes him far too much.
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