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P.J. Carlesimo: Mikhail Prokhorov "a perfect NBA owner"


In an interview on the YES Network, P.J. Carlesimo says the last question Mikhail Prokhorov asks about any player the Nets are considering is this: "Is he gonna be a good piece on us winning a championship?" Everything else, the interim coach says, is secondary, noting that he considers the Nets owner "a perfect NBA owner." He explains that while "every owner in the League says they want to win a championship. But not a lot of them are willing to put the money out there. He’s already shown that he’s willing to do that." He also notes, as he has in the past, that he didn't decide to take the interim job until he cleared it with Avery Johnson.

Carlesimo talked about Prokhorov and a lot of other things in his "CenterStage" interview with Michael Kay that airs immediately following YES’ Nets-Pistons Post-Game Show on Monday night. Among the topics Carlesimo talks about are his career in both collegiate and professional basketball as well as his altercation with Latrell Sprewell, the fall of Big East, his role as an assistant coach on the Dream Team in 1992 as well as the Nets. And when asked who his favorite musician is, he paused and then answered, "Jay-Z.".

Here's a summary:

Did Carlesimo receive Coach Avery Johnson’s blessing to take over as the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in December 2012?

When Billy King (Nets General Manager) called me, he said, "You know, we made a change this morning," which I didn’t even know about at the time. And he said, "We want you to take over the team on an interim basis," and I said, "Bill," I said, "I gotta talk to Avery." I said, "I’ll talk to Avery, and, I’ll get back to you." I went in, and I talked to Avery, and obviously he was still extremely disappointed, if not upset. And he said, "Hey, you know, that’s the way it is in this league. You gotta do what you gotta do." So the decision was really, you know, stay as assistant coach and let somebody else take the job, or try and make the best of the situation. And, (I) decided to go that route (and take the job). But it really, it still doesn’t sit, you know, as nicely as you would like it to be. Because the circumstances were never the way you wanna get a job.

Carlesimo’s thoughts on Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov:

He doesn’t pretend to understand all the (basketball) workings. Billy King’s his general manager, and he values very much what Billy says. And I think he lets a coach coach. He makes it very clear to you he wants to win. To me, he’s a perfect NBA owner because, every owner in the League says they want to win a championship. But A, not a lot of them are willing to put the money out there. He’s already shown that he’s willing to do that.

Secondly, he’s very serious about it. His line of questions were, if you ask about a certain player…Brook Lopez, "What’s he like?" "Well, I really like him, he’s a good big man"…, he says, "Can we win a championship with Brook Lopez at center?" "Yes." Next. And, he asked, "Strengths? Weaknesses? You like him? You don’t like him?" But the last question is always, "Is he gonna be a good piece on us winning a championship?"

Carlesimo’s feelings on the breaking up of the Big East:

I try not to think about it because I get either really sad or really angry. It’s hard to understand exactly why. I mean, football drove that league even from the beginning. So many of the things we did were to keep the football schools there. That’s why you had different teams coming in at different times. But for a league that has meant so much to those institutions, and so much to the fans, you know, on the East Coast, when it was the Big East, when everybody was in the East, and…everybody played each other twice; it’s kind of sad to see it, as spectacular as it was and as good as it was for so many players and coaches and fans and schools, to see it dissolve.

His thoughts on his 1988-89 Seton Hall team which made it to the NCAA championship game:

I knew we were good enough to get to the (NCAA) tournament and go deep in the tournament. We just got better and better. We played a really tough schedule. We were three games into the NCAA (tournament) before we played anybody as good as we played in the league (Big East).

On his experience as an assistant coach of the original "Dream Team," the 1992 United States Olympic Men’s Basketball Team:

It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. That summer was just literally a once in a lifetime experience. The head coach: Chuck Daly. Lenny Wilkens was his NBA assistant. And two college coaches…Mike Krzyzewski and myself.

The practices in Monte Carlo (in advance of the actual Games) were unbelievable. We went to Monte Carlo because we were gonna train for a week (before going to Barcelona), and where else would you train for a week but Monte Carlo?

We went to Monte Carlo, but there were no college players there. We didn’t have that team (earlier, in the United States, the Olympic team scrimmaged against college players). So that was the first time we really scrimmaged against each other. When we did something live and it was five on five…so Michael (Jordan) was one team, and Magic (Johnson) was the other, and they’d choose it out, and we’d play. And those were the best practices…
(The level of intensity was) Beyond belief. Half of the time...we’d just blow the whistle and say, "OK, that’s enough for today." Because it was getting outta hand. And that week of practice really got us ready for going into Barcelona.

Could the 2012 Olympics men’s basketball team have beaten the original 1992 "Dream Team"?

No. Not even remotely, not even (in) the same stratosphere.

Was the 1992 Dream Team the best team ever assembled?

Without question. And so many of these guys (on that team) were at the peak. Our team now is still essentially a young team. 11 of those guys (on 1992 team) are in the Hall of Fame. I don’t know if we’re gonna have 11 Hall of Famers off this current (2012 Olympics) team. I don’t think so.

On his 1997 choking incident with Latrell Sprewell while coaching Golden State Warriors:

We just were in the middle of a practice, and we were doing a drill, and, (I) asked Spre to put more zip in a pass…

(On if he had a good relationship with Sprewell up to that point)

I wouldn’t say it was a great relationship, but I wouldn’t have said it was bad.

(His first reaction when Sprewell choked him)

More surprise, not shock. Again, I mean, there were so many people around. It was, you know, it’s a practice, and things happen at practice, but no, there was nothing that led up to it. So it was more surprise.(On of if he ever felt in danger) No. It wasn’t a situation like that.

(Was he surprised that Sprewell returned to practice 20 minutes after the incident)


On what went wrong between him and Sprewell, and if it still bothers him today:

No, to this day, I don’t (know what precipitated it), I’m not sure exactly what it was, but…something set him off, and, just, that’s the way he reacted, and the rest is history. I think people who don’t know basketball, that’s the only thing they know. Like if someone says Spre’s name or someone says my name…they say, "Oh, that, those two guys, I know that." From here (New York area), if you say my name, they’ll probably relate it to Seton Hall. If you say it on the West Coast, people relate it to Golden State or to Portland.

Did the incident have any racial undertones?

No, no, no. People are always gonna, you know, look at it and say, "Well, it’s a black player, it’s a white coach." No. I don’t think so. A lot of the players and coaches in the league (NBA), (who) immediately, you know, stood up and said, "Whoa, wait a minute." Let’s not bring something into this that’s not in it." That never had any legs.

Did he and Sprewell patch things up?

No, not really.

(If they ever spoke about the incident)

Not really. You know, "Hello", before a game, after a game, something like that. But first time we were together again was my first game I did for NBC when I was doing broadcasting with another Fordham buddy of your(s), Mike Breen. The first game we did, Christmas Day (2001). It was Madison Square Garden and Spre came over, I think, to do a post-game radio (interview) with Clyde or something like that, but that was the first time we had been face to face since the…since the hearing. Again, it was, you know, hello, somewhat... It was cordial.

(If Sprewell ever apologized)

Not a problem. No.

(Did he expect him to?)

No, no.

(If Carlesimo wants him to apologize)

No. No, not needed. No, it’s over. I mean, it’s over. It was a long time ago, and (you) move on.

Carlesimo’s thoughts on Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim:

Under-rated, if you can be as successful as he is and still be underrated as a coach. And a much nicer person than people perceive him to be. He’s a really good guy, he just doesn’t want people to know it.

His thoughts on former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, now head coach at Northwood University in Florida:

Tremendous coach. Bad loser. Like Bo (Boeheim), really bad loser.

On the type of coach Thompson was:

Unbelievable coach. His teams played probably harder than any other team. Great defensive coach. Like Jim (Boeheim), totally different person than his public persona. Actually a warm guy, (a) guy that would do anything for you.

Thoughts on former Providence coach Rick Pitino, now at Louisville:

Tremendously competitive coach. Always loved to press, so they, for 40 minutes, they were gonna come at you and play for 40 (minutes). He always believed you’d win games, you know, in the last six or eight minutes. They’d wear you down over the course of the game.

Former St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca?

The best. He kind of, to me, embodies New York basketball. He was St. John’s. I mean, you know, succeeding a guy like Joe Lapchick (Hall of Fame St. John’s coach). His teams were creative, really, really good offensive teams. Great game coach, and was the kind of guy that always found something good to say about the other program.

Carlesimo’s favorite musician:

(After some thought) Jay-Z.

His thoughts on playing water polo while attending Fordham University:

Water polo…that was the best shape I was ever in, in my life. Water polo’s the most demanding sport I ever played. The Ivy League schools have the special pools for water polo. And the depth of the pool’s like 10 feet. So you tread water the whole time, and it’s even tougher when you’re a goalie. Fordham, fortunately, was an old time pool, so the one end was only about four feet deep, so I could play in the shallow end really well. But when we had road games and I had to play where it was over my head, it was a little bit more of a challenge.

His plans were to always go into coaching:

I knew I wanted to go into coaching. My father (Peter Carlesimo, long-time college basketball coach and administrator) didn’t want any part of it. He wanted me to go to law school, and if Digger (Phelps, Fordham head men’s basketball coach 1970-71) hadn’t left, I probably would have gone to law school. Hal Wissel (1971-76 Fordham University head men’s basketball coach) came in as the new coach, and I, for lack of a better term, I became a G.A (graduate assistant). I got, you know, $500 to be the golf coach and (a) seventh assistant basketball coach.

On coaching the actor Denzel Washington on Fordham’s junior varsity basketball team:

(Washington) played at Mount Vernon High School (north of New York City). (He) Came to us as a walk-on, went to the downtown campus, the Lincoln Center campus (Fordham University’s campus in midtown Manhattan), came up and tried out for the team and was a pretty good player. But, this kid…from Mount Vernon stuck it out for two years. (He) didn’t start for us. We were 18-0 the one year. He was already doing productions in New York and at Fordham.

On his current relationship with Washington:

Oh, he’s great. He’s been unbelievable. He’s been really good to Fordham. We both spend a lot of time with the Boys and Girls Club as one of our charities. When we go to L.A. is usually where I see him, the Laker games, he’s sitting right up front.

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