Longtime NBA coach George Karl, who authored one of the most controversial sports books in recent memory, dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Tuesday to discuss the fallout from his book, “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection.”
Karl, as suggested by the book’s title, took several shots at current and former NBA players. He was asked for his reaction to the reaction thus far.
“Somewhat disappointed,” Karl said in studio on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Not disappointed, but somewhat shocked by the amount of it. I wanted to write a book, a storytelling book, about some of the episodes in my life. You can’t write a book without opinion, without expressing your feelings. I was (candid) and I took some shots at some players. But in general, it was as a coach. I was talking about basketball. I just think that what it is right now is we got a book and hopefully the basketball fan will enjoy it and hopefully we’ll move on and get past this and have some fun playing and coaching basketball in the future.”
Doug Gottlieb, for one, thoroughly enjoyed Karl’s book and did not vilify him as many have. Perhaps that is because Gottlieb’s father was a coach and he – Gottlieb – knows that everything is not always copacetic between a head coach and star player. While reading the book, Gottlieb felt like he was sharing a beer with Karl at a bar.
That’s not a bad thing.
“So much of the game has changed in the 30-some years I’ve been coaching, and one of them is the conversations of the game,” Karl said. “When I was working at ESPN, I thought fans would want to hear maybe a little bit more behind the scenes (of) what goes on with the coach. I don’t know if (the title) should be ‘Furious George,’ but it should be ‘Frustrated George’ because in the NBA, head coaches are frustrated. A good team who wins 50 games loses 32. So there’s 32 nights that you’re really frustrated. The game has gotten to the point right now that the head-coaching job is a job of figuring out how to try to get better, how to move forward, how to improve, but there’s a lot of little things that come up on your radar that create some frustration.”
Karl criticized several players in his book, including Carmelo Anthony. Karl called Anthony the most talented offensive player he ever coached but said he was not a good defender.
Any NBA fan, surely, would agree with that.
“I think people think I’m trying to hold a grudge or something,” Karl said. “But Melo, all these things, most all players, when you coach them hundreds of games, there are good moments and there are bad moments. There are difficult moments and there are happy moments. That was my take on Carmelo. I enjoyed coaching Carmelo – except the frustration was he could be a great defender if he wanted to be. He could be a great playmaker if he wanted to be. He could be a great rebounder if he wanted to be. There’s not an aspect of the game of basketball that he cannot be a top-notch NBA basketball player. So as a coach, you want to get the most out of your players. And Carmelo, again, he enjoyed scoring probably a little bit more than I wanted him to, there’s no question. He’s a great scorer. The game is easy (for him). I don’t think fans understand how hard it is to score in the NBA. You can score in college, but when you get to the NBA, it’s hard to be a big-time, 25-30 point scorer, and Melo been doing that for 10, 15 years. I do respect that. He was a part of our teams – the part, the leader – of us winning a lot of basketball games in Denver.”
Karl ran into trouble, though, when he blamed some of his struggles with Anthony and Kenyon Martin to them growing up without a father or positive male role model.
“I think I could have said it better,” Karl said. “I think if I went back and re-did the book, I could have said it better. But you have to understand when guys aren’t playing well, we’re trying to figure out the hot button. We’re trying to help them figure it out. I was blessed with a good father and a great coach at Carolina that became my second father. As you said, 21-year-old kids get millions of dollars coming into the pro game where they’re going to probably hit a wall. Ninety percent of all NBA players hit a wall in the NBA. There might be that 1-in-10 player that’s capable of stepping on an NBA court and being a really, really good player. It takes at least one year, sometimes two – most of the time three or four years – before a guy figures out how good the game is and how difficult the game is.”
DeMarcus Cousins, 26, has figured that out. He and Karl did not see eye-to-eye in Sacramento, but there’s no denying Cousins’ skill.
“I think he is the most talented big guy in the NBA,” Karl said. “It’s the coach’s job. I didn’t do the job. I failed in my job in trying to figure out how to make it work. I probably made as many mistakes out in Sacramento as anywhere.”
Gottlieb asked Karl where Cousins could truly flourish.
“I’m not the one to ask,” Karl said, chuckling. “I failed.”
Karl also weighed in on the Michael-versus-LeBron debate.
“I’ll take Michael Jordan because I feel him,” Karl said. “I feel how much he cares about winning. I think to be a teammate in that would be unbelievable and he’s a great talent. He’s one of the top five skilled players in the game. But if I had one game to watch, I’d want LeBron James to be in that game. He’s one of the most enjoyable players to watch play the game because he plays it the right way. He does every aspect of the game pretty damn seriously every possession of the game.”
Karl also said that he would like to change the NBA’s one-and-done rule.
“I kind of like the baseball system,” he said. “The baseball system says you can be drafted out of high school, or if you go to college, if you accept a college scholarship, you must stay three years. I have no idea why I like that system, but it seems like that would be a better system for everybody. It would be a win-win-win. . . . The college system has been a great farm system for the NBA, still is a great farm system for the NBA. But how can we work together to make he game better? I’m open to any suggestion.”
Karl, 65, does not know whether he will ever coach again.
“I hate to say am I done,” Karl said. “I think I’m always going to be a basketball coach. I think I’m always going to be involved with basketball coaches. Will I ever coach another NBA game? I don’t know.”
The good news is that Karl hasn’t lost any friends as a result of the book. Not that he knows of, anyway.
“I haven’t gotten that text yet,” Karl said, laughing. “I might get it today.”