Thursday, October 2, 2008

Getting to Know You....P.J. Carlesimo

I'm going to start a new feature here on Blue Blitz. Since most people in Oklahoma City are new to the NBA, the faces in the organization probably mean nothing to you. So, its only fair that we all get acquainted, right?

First, our coach: P.J. Carlesimo
P.J. Demonstrating the "Shout and Point while trying not to look wierd" technique.

P.J. demonstrating just how cool he is.

Anyone who has heard the name P.J. Carlesimo before he became the coach of the SuperSonics last year, probably knew about the time he was choked by Latrell Sprewell. In fact, that's probably the only thing they knew about him.

But, lets start at the beginning....

Unlike most major coaches, he never played basketball at a professional level. Rather, he has coached his entire post-college life. At least no one can debunk his experience. Carlesimo started his coaching career at Fordham University. After that, he skipped between several minor colleges in New England until 1982.

P.J. in his less salt-n-peppery days.

In 1982, he became the coach of Seton Hall. This is far before my time, but basically he picked up a no-nothing program and brought it all the way to a National Championship loss in 1989. He also assistant coached the Pre-Dream Team in 1990 (under Coach K) and the Dream Team in 1992.

Afterwards, he made the jump to the pros. This is where things finally get interesting. He was hired by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1994.

The Trail Blazers were a coming off of some glory years under Rick Adelman. In 1990 and 1992 they reached the NBA Finals under the play of Clyde "The Glide" Drexler. One couldn't blame the for these losses, as the first loss was to the "Bad Boy" Detroit Pistons and the second loss was to Michael Jordans Bulls. Inbetween (1991), the Pistons posted a 63-17 record, but lost to Magic Johnson's Lakers in the West Finals. The great teams had to beat somebody, you know. Yet, somehow the team fell into mediocrity. In 1993 and 1994, they couldn't advance past the first round, though one could hardly blame them with Barkleys Suns, Olajuwons Rockets, the Sonic Boom (Kemp, Payton) Supersonics, Malone and Stocktons Jazz and David Robinsons Spurs standing in their way. So, Paul Allen (the owner) and Co. decided to lay the blame on Adelman and fire him.

P.J. with the Blazers.

They hired P.J. Carlesimo. Carlesimo, basically, still had the core of the 1992 Finals roster to work with. By now, all of the players were getting old, and management didn't make any moves (besides moving Kevin Duckworth) until after Carlesimos tenure. So, he just rode out the mediocre roster for two years, and left in 1996 before Portland became a mish-mashed mess.

Then in 1997, he joined an even worse mess in the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, at this time (and still are) owned by a penny-pinching, hands off owner who cares about nothing but making a profit, Chris Cohan. His incompetance, basically, was the main reason the Warriors missed the playoffs for 13 years.

On top of that, they were lead by what Warriors fans like to call "the Worst GM in sports", Garry St. Jean. Garrys basic strategy for building a basketball team was combining young prospects with seasoned veterans, so that they could learn from each other. Sounds good, right? Not when executed so horribly. Firstly, his drafting abilities were as good as John Blakes coaching abilities. He drafted Todd Fuller over Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, and Jermaine O'Neal. He traded Vince Carter for Antawn Jamison. Often, he ould trade for players in the very end of their careers, like John Starks and Mookie Blaylock who would serve to hurt the team more than help them.

P.J. drafting the greatest player of all time, Adonal Foyle.

In 1997, the team was dismal, basically serving as a pit stop for older NBA Stars and younger NBA prospects before both varieties moved on to greener pastures. For example, the pre-season starting lineup on NBA Live 98 (Carlesimos first year) read as so (for everyones information, this was the team that got me interested in basketball as a kid):
C- Erick Dampier - Hadn't developed yet
PF- Joe Smith - Just as he came into his own, he was traded
SF- Donyell Marshall- Ditto to the above
SG- Latrell Sprewell- In his prime, but had a temper
PG- Mark Price- Used to be on some great Cavalier teams, but his career was just about over.

Needless to say, his work was cut out for Blogger: Blue Blitz: News and Editorials on the Oklahoma City Thunder - Create Posthim. He had a disgruntled star and a bunch of guys who were not above role player status. The record of this team was dismal, and one day, Latrell had had it.

The legend goes like so. Practice is going as normal, and the team is doing drills. Latrell had just made a soft pass.

When yelling the infamous line, P.J. was no doubt using this powerful "double handed shouting" technique.

PJ: Put a little mustard on that pass!

Latrell: I'm telling you, coach, I'm not in the mood for this right now. Don't come towrds me!

*PJ approaches him*

Sprewell then threatened to kill him and dragged him to the ground by his throat, choking him for 10-15 seconds before his teammates pulled Sprewell off his coach.

15-20 minutes later, Latrell came back to practice and attacked PJ before leaving again. During this attack, he threatened to kill him.

P.J. post-confrontation. Ouch, don't mess with Spree.

Sprewell was suspended for an entire season, and Carlesimo was never looked at in the same light again. Most Warriors fans think of this as the dark days of the franchise. Indeed, when Matt Steinmetz (Warriors sideline reporter) was asked what his worst moment covering the Warriors was, he responded with the incident.

When asked about it later in a 60 minutes interview, Sprewell said, "I wasn't choking P.J. that hard, I mean, he could breathe.

With his star gone, the situation only got worse for Carlesimo. The team finished 19-63, and Carlesimo became notorious for giving heave minutes "worthless" big men, such as Erick Dampier, Adonal Foyle, Chris Mills, and Jason Caffey.

The next season there was a glimmer of hope for Carlesimo. He had just gotten a nice rookie star in Antawn Jamison. The NBA had just witnessed a player lockout and the retirement of Michael Jordan. Many of the teams were bad. So, he managed to pull off a 21-29 record with a lineup of Bimbo Coles, John Starks, Chris Mills, Jason Caffey, and Erick Dampier. The shortened season benefited the team, as younger team generally tend to fizzle out late in the season.

The shadow forever haunts him....

Sadly for Carlesimo, this highered expectations for next season. His team quickly fell to 6-21 and he was just as quickly ousted from his job. With a bad reputation following him and 2 relatively bad coaching stints, nobody in the NBA wanted to hire him.

After his stint in Oakland, P.J. went on to persue other career options. Like Gardening!

And house....making.

So, starting in 2002, he spent 5 years as assistant coach of the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich. Here, he let things cool down and got to play all of the big men that he wanted to.

Eventually, the SuperSonics hired him in 2007, and you should know the rest of the story. They traded Ray Allen and most of their previously built team so that they could build around Durant, and they finished 20-62.

And now, you know the story of Coach P.J. Carlesimo. Next up: Sam Presti.

Okay, one last picture.



RJ said...

"First, our coach: P.J. Carlesimo"

Make that "P.J. Carlesimo, the first coach."

He got into the coaching game in large part to his father's connections and his few strong teams were due to a strong recruiter, clean or not hard to know.

As an NBA head coach he is below average to well below average and that isn't going to change.

Gone in 3 months, 12 or 18, he will be gone.

Either Presti is doing a tank or he isn't a good judge of coaches.

Zorgon said...

Yeah, I doubt Carlesimo survives beyond next season.

Still, he's my favourite NBA coach. He was the guy who coached my favourite NBA team of all time, the 97-98 Golden State Warriors. Long story short, my friend introduce me to NBA Live 98, and to challenge ourselves, we played with the worst team, the Golden State Warriors. They've stuck ever since.

RJ said...

I could see liking a losing team of players or maybe even some losing coaches but not PJ for me. But enjoy the PJ ride I guess.

Anonymous said...

I like PJ Carlesimo. It'll be interesting to see how he does when Presti starts giving him more talent to work with ... right now his hands are pretty much tied.

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