Former Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl, who ran six NBA teams during a tumultuous career that we’re assured is likely over, will release his second memoir soon. The New York Post recently quoted some excerpts from the tome that are hardly shocking to those who followed Karl’s career closely, but no less damaging, needless, and embarrassing for all involved.
In the book, Karl teed off on former teammates Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, and Kenyon Martin for not only their inability to contribute Tim Duncan-styled two-way production on the court, but (in Martin and Anthony’s case) the crime of having gone through life without a father – allowing Karl to pin this as the top reason for what he saw as continued malfeasance.
Martin and Smith already responded to Karl’s well-publicized shots, while Carmelo Anthony (“I just hope that he finds happiness in what he’s doing. His book, hopefully will bring him happiness.”) took the high road in his reaction. Something tells us that the Christmas holiday weekend did the best work for Karl’s reputation in this regard, as many observers probably won’t feel the need to pile on the former coach as he embraces irrelevance in retirement.
Milwaukee Buck guard Jason Terry never played for Karl, but he is from Seattle, worked against George (in his estimation) “30 or 40 times” during his playing career, and JET remains quite verbose. This is why it’s no surprise that Terry would discuss a pre-NBA conversation he had with the then-SuperSonics coach, after Terry’s sophomore season at college, on Sirius XM recently:
“When I was a sophomore at the University of Arizona, I used to work George Karl’s basketball camp in Seattle. I was at a banquet, George walked up, he approached me, shook my hand and then whispered over to me and said, ‘You’ll never make it to the NBA. You’re never serious. You’re a joke.’ That’s what he told me. Word for word.
“And so I always kept that in the back of my mind, and every time I either faced a George Karl’s team or when I’d see him, I always had a little extra motivation. Yeah, no question. But that’s just George. I mean, if you know George, you know, for better or worse, that’s just him. That’s his personality. And he’s always been like that and I can see why guys had a tough time playing with him or for him.”
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The 18-year veteran went on to say that he presumed Karl drunk at the time of his little observation. It did not sound as if Jason was speaking with tongue placed in cheek when he allowed us that aside.
Terry’s Arizona Wildcats won the NCAA championship in 1997, during Jason’s chicken fingers-fueled sophomore year, with the hybrid guard coming off of the Wildcat bench. He went on to stay all four years at the school, and his NBA career outlasted the professional runs of teammates Mike Bibby, Miles Simon, and Michael Dickerson (whom Karl, according to Terry, also chided).
Drafted into the league in 1999 by the Warriors, Terry was immediately dealt for veteran Mookie Blaylock as the Golden State Warriors looked to make one big veteran-led push behind Antawn Jamison (they would go on to win 19 games), Terry struggled at times during his first few years with a poorly-constructed Atlanta Hawks team, but his savvy and efficient play didn’t go unnoticed.
He would go on to a fabulous career with the Dallas Mavericks, replacing Steve Nash in the team’s backcourt in what could have been a low ebb (the Mavs actually won six more games in 2004-05 with Terry on board during Nash’s MVP season in Phoenix than they did the year before, with Nash around), eventually winning a championship in 2011 with Terry acting as the team’s sixth man.
Terry, who turned 39 in September, has enjoyed a fantastic NBA career – averaging 14.1 points and four assists in 30 minutes a contest. It’s true that he can act like a goofball at times, but he’s remained one of the league’s best-loved goofballs since entering the NBA at the fin de siècle, and there’s a reason why the league is giddy in anticipation for Terry’s next move as he adapts to life outside of the court. His presence will be sought-after, whether he stays on the bench as an assistant coach, moves into the personnel ranks, or joins a broadcast outfit.
The same cannot be said for George Karl, who sustained his uneasy and brusque tone even during his short stint as ESPN commentator following his removal from the Denver Nuggets job in 2013.
Charles Barkley, who repeatedly referred to Karl as one of the league’s best coaches (if not the best coach in the NBA) time and time again on the ‘Inside the NBA’ set for years, properly characterized the league’s disappointment in its former coach on that same set on Thursday:
Following Carmelo Anthony’s lead, we shouldn’t pile on.
The NBA should covet the irascible. It shouldn’t be squeamish in asking questions about what sort of balance and treatment a pro player needs as it enters the NBA following what people like George Karl (or anyone else) either consider to be an unorthodox or orthodox childhood. It should expect the best from its players and demand a modicum of respect from all parties when expectations create loggerheads.
Above all, though, the NBA should be entertaining. The excerpt from George Karl’s new book, and the entirety of his previous book, was far from entertaining. It wasn’t funny, and it wasn’t interesting. If this were a different website, we’d use a stronger word than “cranky” to describe his seemingly perpetually unsatisfied NBA run.
This isn’t the light and cheer we’d expect from a guy that coached nearly 2000 NBA games from 1984 until 2016, winning 1175 along the way. Though we cannot assume his new book is full of unendingly irritable observations, why would anyone (given his career, his previous book, his on-camera work, his time spent dealing with the media) expect otherwise?
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