P.J. Carlesimo, the former interim head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, is now an ESPN analyst. Able to share all his thoughts in an objective matter, Carlesimo had plenty to say about what level of talent the Nets really have, why it’s bad for the league to be a players league, and what it really means when headlines say a coach has “lost the locker room”. Stefan Bondy of New York Daily News has all the details:
“But, again, everybody starts the year saying we want to win a championship. Brooklyn has more reason to say that than a lot of the other teams in the league. I still would not call them one of the favorites. I wouldn’t put that on whoever is lucky enough to get the job. I think it’s a team that could win a lot of games. I think it’s a 50-win team, a playoff team and a team that could do well, particularly in the Eastern Conference. But to win a championship is a bear. …I still do think it’s a good job. I think the expectations are maybe not totally realistic, but you’d rather have that from your owner and you know he’s got the wherewithal to back it up. That’s his goal.”
Not many believed the Nets were true contenders this season, especially after seeing how badly some of the key signings – like Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries – had regressed, along with the consistently inconsistent play of Joe Johnson. It’s intriguing to hear Carlesimo note that he, too, privately believed that too much was expected of him and this team so soon.
“What is not good in the league right now, and it’s just reality – it’s a players league; there is no question about that. But it can’t be the point where players hire and fire coaches because that’s not going to work. If you look at the places that have been successful, it’s where the best players – look at Miami. It’s because Dwyane and LeBron have Spo’s back. Spo, a lot of people when he got the job people said how can he coach this big three, this famous group? What makes it work is those guys empower him. …It doesn’t make it easy to coach when you don’t feel that your general manager or your owner has your back.”
The simple translation of the above quote appears to be this: “My players didn’t support me as their coach, so I was basically doomed and that’s not fair.” The interesting note and irony about how coaches are enabled by players is that Deron Williams constantly shared his support of Carlesimo through much of the season. Perhaps what he said to the media and what his body language said on the court stated two different things.
“It’s spin that the players or agents or general manager trying to rationalize as opposed to saying, hey, that’s my coach. I back him a hundred percent; end of discussion. When you have anything short of that kind of backing, you get people throwing out things like that well, he’s lost the locker room. That’s because an agent is upset that his player isn’t playing, or a player doesn’t like the way he’s being asked to do something or the general manager is trying to sense would it be a popular thing if we got rid of this guy? Say what it is. Let them say what it is. This particular player won’t play for him or something like that, doesn’t like him, this guy’s a player. When you fire a player’s coach, it’s because he’s too easy on players. That’s all spin or what you say when you make a change or how you’re trying to sell a change when you’re trying to make it.”
The fascinating thing about hearing things of this nature from a guy like Carlesimo is that we sometimes wonder why some coaches do the things they do. Generally, there is a tendency to feel negatively towards them when they fail and simply think they just don’t get it. You hear the man speak, though, and it’s crystal clear that he is quite aware of his surroundings and has a great understanding of why things happen the way they do.
When fans hear from the media that a coach has “lost the locker room”, they usually believe in the sentiment. What they don’t consider is that all it takes for a rumor of that nature to float around is for a single unhappy player or his agent to whisper into the ears of a reporter. For example (and I’m not saying this is what happened), a promising second-year player like MarShon Brooks, who barely got any playing time under Carlesimo, could easily express his displeasure privately. It doesn’t take a whole lot for his agent to spread rumors that the locker room is at an unrest, and that’s not a fair situation for a coach, who can only do so much to repair the image that has been portrayed of him by an unnamed source.
Carlesimo is probably bitter about how things ended for him in what could potentially have been his final run as the head coach of an NBA team. Based on his logic about what went down and the situations he was forced to deal with, it’s hard to blame him.
Onto other news from around the league: