The irony of the controversy surrounding former Nuggets coach George Karl, in the days since excerpts of his new book “Furious George” were made public, is found in a passage in the pages of his own prose.
“I just wish someone had managed me, like a GM does with a talented player,” Karl says in the book. “A young NBA coach needs weekly, maybe daily, help from an experienced guy.”
An old one does too.
Karl was referencing his repeated party fouls when talking to the media or dealing with individuals in whatever organization he found himself. In short, he needed PR training. He didn’t have it, so he winged it. Winging it wasn’t always the best policy.
Let’s just say this up front: Karl definitely said stuff he should not have said. We’re talking about the whole “no father” thing in reference to former Nuggets forwards Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony. That was a low blow and wholly unacceptable.
Karl said other things that maybe he could have left alone, but that wouldn’t be Karl. And that was the whole point of things with this book.
“I need a book — this one — to explain what really happens,” he writes. “For example: I wasn’t able to explain that dealing with egos that are like ostrich eggs — big and fragile — is the hidden reality of what NBA coaches do. It’s even hidden from some owners — like the one in Denver — who don’t appreciate the importance and the time and hard work involved.”
The book isn’t a complete chop shop of everyone Karl ever hated. Far from it. But beating around the bush isn’t Karl’s style. Running from conflict hasn’t been, either. In explaining the no-holds-barred objectives of his book in the introduction, Karl bluntly takes aim at Martin, about 200 pages before the material that made news shows up.
“So, sorry Kenyon. I’m not keeping my mouth shut,” Karl writes. “Not now, not ever.”
George is furious, but he’s just as introspective. He opened up about his feelings after his many firings. He readily admits and beats himself up over all of the shortcomings in his life — from putting his family second to basketball, to not having Shawn Kemp take more jump shots to draw Dikembe Mutombo out of the paint during the Seattle SuperSonics’ first-round playoff loss to the Nuggets in 1994. At its foundation, “Furious George” could easily be titled “The Life and Times of George Karl.”
As such, he glows about his childhood, he spills the beans on why he and Joe Barry Carroll never saw eye to eye, why he and Kendall Gill were almost always at odds, the evolution of his relationship with Gary Payton, why he loves Tim Grgurich so much, and, of course, his feelings about being fired by the Nuggets the same year he won the NBA coach of the year award.
Karl recalls telling Nuggets president Josh Kroenke: “This is very stupid,” after being fired. Karl says Kroenke had a “complete lack of respect for the job we’d done.” He continues: “I understood the rarity of the good thing we’d built, but Josh didn’t.”
There was a bit more. George is still furious about losing his job in Denver. Reportedly, passages that went more in-depth into his time with the Sacramento Kings were removed, and the end of the book reads that way, glancing over it generally before abruptly moving on to other things.
On several occasions Karl notes that fiery passion is his best and worst emotion, bringing about some of the best and hardest times in his life. A life that’s been lived fast and, yes, furious.
Spotlight on … The surging Washington Wizards
What’s up: After a 2-8 start, the Washington Wizards have hit their stride, having won 13 of 21 games since Nov. 17 heading into the weekend.
Background: When the Nuggets blew into Washington D.C. on Dec. 8, things were still touch-and-go in Wizardland. They were 7-13. There was still a lot of wishy-washy play happening, starting with spotty defense. I asked new coach Scott Brooks one question: “At what point do you look at your team and say ‘This is just who we are.’” Brooks answer? “We always keep working, and we keep building on what we want to be,” he said. “And you never get there. You just keep building every year, and it’s the daily work that you put in that create the habits. And we still have to keep working and keep building and keep believing in the work that needs to be done. That’s just how we do things, and it takes time.” That time, it seems, could be right now. Prior to their Dec. 30 game against Brooklyn, Washington had won eight of its last 11 games, including seven in a row at home – starting with the win over the Nuggets.
Dempsey’s take: It’s about time. With perennial All-Star John Wall and burgeoning star Bradley Beal, the Wizards had few excuses for playing such flat basketball. But adjusting to a new coach and system takes time, and that was part of the issue with the Wizards. Their defense has improved, but mostly Wall has just gone bonkers, averaging a career-high 23.7 points, 9.9 assists (third in the NBA) and a league-leading 2.24 steals going into the weekend. Beal is up over 21 points per game as well, as the duo has found a way to thrive together.