Welcome to the Kings, George Karl.The headaches the Kings are presenting you with will not go away with a couple of aspirins, but only with a lot of tough decisions. I'm sure you're aware of this. I'm sure you've already started making some.
Good luck, George.
When I was coaching the Reno Bighorns in the old CBA, we played George's Montana team. He beat the pants off of us. The Bighorns were a so-so team with a lousy coach; the Montana team was a so-so team with a great coach. Well, he wasn't great yet, but he was on a fast-track to greatness.
The Sacramento Kings' GM, Pete D'Alessandro, made a wise choice hiring George Karl. Why George remained un-hired up to now is a mystery to me and a gift to the Kings. I believe George belongs in that category of elite coaches which include Auerbach, Holtzman, Hannum, Sharman, Wilkens, Riley, Daly, Brown, Jackson, and Popovich, the defining characteristics of which is four-fold: basketball smarts, razor sharp instincts, the ability to teach, and passion. Of all of these, I rank Passion the highest. The smarts, the instincts, the teaching goes sideways without passion.
George was passionate about the game, I suspect, from the first time he picked up a basketball, but I saw it first when I watched him play as a intelligent point guard at North Carolina. And later, as I watched him coach in the NBA.
If George has ever failed as a coach, it's been his inability to coach selfish players. Selfish players don't respond to coaching. I don't see any selfish players on the Kings. Some people have laid that accusation at the feet of Demarcus Cousins. Cousins, no doubt has his faults - brooding, complaining, whining, obstinacy, self importance to name a few, but no one watching the big fellow can say that he lacks passion.The fact is Demarcus Cousins has improved in the above mentioned areas of personal behavior, so George if fortunate to inherit a more manageable player to begin his tenure. .
We will see if the still young Cousins has matured enough to embrace the kind of straight talk he'll hear from Coach Karl. Carmelo Anthony couldn't, and still can't, his problem being a hard wired genetic case of selfishness. Gary Payton (known for being difficult and stubborn) could, and grew into a Hall of Fame basketball player under George's tutelage.
There is one other attribute that should be pointed out, not something George would emphasis, but I will and that is his battle and victory over two cancers: of prostate and throat. Having overcome three types of cancer myself, I'm in awe of my fellow cancer survivors. I'm not sure it makes one stronger, but it sure teaches one patience, the importance of a sense of humor, and how to live day by day, all of which George will bring to his coaching this year. The Kings may be lucky in that they nabbed George at the moment when he has reached the pinacle of his humanity and, as a consequence, the height of his ability to coach.
George, you will love Sacramento. The Capital City is on the rise, with an aggressive, future thinking Mayor, a beautiful new arena, a revitalized downtown, an energetic university and arts community, good schools, involved citizens, a city with more trees in the world except for Paris. And lots more attributes too numerous to count.
Last Saturday I sat in on a poetry workshop run by Sacramento Poet Laureate Bob Stanley. I was there as his guest to talk about my recent collection of poems: Sweat: New and Collected Poems About Sports. One of the members of the group wrote a wonderful poem about basketball I'd like to share with a wider audience.
Roundball by Stan Zumbiel
I always dreamt of being a basketball player,
A dream that only I believed in.
I could shoot. Don't get me wrong
about that. Hours and year on the
driveway tossing the ball against
the wooden backboard and into the
metal net meant I was a deadeye.
Sometimes the balls were oblong
from being run over with the car
or worn completely smooth by
constant contact with cement and
the black-top of the street.But I could
shoot. From the edge of the lawn,
guarded by the boxwood hedge,
from the complete backcourt of
the sidewalk, I would hear the
ringing song of the chain link net.
When I was a freshman, we had a contest
in P.E. For two minutes, we alternately
shot freethrows and lay-ups retrieving
our own misses. Two points for the
freethrow and one point for the lay-up.
And for the entirety of one lunch
period, I held the school record at
thirty-two points, was the talk of
the cafeteria. Until Bruce Lee,
the captain of the freshman team,
got forty-one that afternoon.
I could shoot. There was no doubt
about that. But, let's not deceive
ourselves, I couldn't play. I was slow,
short, couldn't jump and hated contact -
worthless during a game.
But I could shoot, on my driveway
I could fill it up like mad.
What my musings are all about...
Blogging might well be the 21st century's form of journaling. As a writing teacher, I have always advised my students to keep a daily journal as a way of organizing their thoughts for future writing projects, a discipline I have unfortunately never consistently practiced myself. By blogging, I might finally be able to follow my own good advice.
The difference between journaling and blogging is that the blogger opens his or her writing to the public, something journal- writers are usually reluctant to do. I am not so reticent.
The trick for me will be to avoid cluttering the internet with more blather, something none of us need more of. If I stick to subjects I know: sports and literature, I believe I can avoid that pitfall. I can't promise that I'll not stray from time to time to comment on ancillary subjects, but I will make every attempt to be interesting and perhaps even insightful.