George Karl deserves to be recognized as one of...
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Dec 30, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

George Karl deserves to be recognized as one of NBA’s greatest coaches: Smith

Victories over cancer off the court make George Karl's 1,154 victories on it seem all the more impressive

OurWindsor.Ca

For all he has had to endure personally, two successful fights against cancer; for all he had to endure professionally, rosters littered with difficult players of dubious and trying character, George Karl probably doesn’t get his due.

When they rattle off the list of the list of the era’s great NBA coaches, with championships and victories and tenure as the criteria, he is an afterthought too often.

You get Gregg Popovich and Phil Jackson as champions with Don Nelson, Pat Riley, Jerry Sloan and Lenny Wilkens as winners and the minds of fans have to wander far and wide to get to Karl.

Maybe not any more. One of the icons of the craft is about to join the pantheon and get at least some of the attention and credit he deserves.

Karl entered games as of Wednesday night needing one more coaching victory to tie Jackson for fifth on the all-time list, a benchmark that’s a testament not only to Karl’s durability but to his skill as a tactician and a manager of men.

Nelson, one of Karl’s favourites and best friends, leads the list with 1,335 victories, Wilkens is second at 1,332 with Sloan (1,221), Riley (1,210) and Jackson (1,155) rounding out the top five.

Karl will join that list — and it’s not inconceivable he can creep up to No. 3 if he continues on the job a few more years — and the tributes will flow.

And they should for so many reasons.

Not only has he won games, he’s won far greater and more important battles. He beat prostate cancer in 2005 and throat and neck cancer in 2010, he helped his son Coby go through thyroid cancer surgery in both 2006 and 2007 and he has become revitalized.

He remarried and became a father again at 53 years old and he’s a grandfather as well; he is more mellow and appreciative and willing to take a step back for a deep breath and some perspective than he ever was.

He was volatile in his previous incarnation, dealing with what’s truly important has taught him a lesson, he told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper in a wide-ranging interview.

“There’s no question my life has been tremendously influenced by divorce, two cancers, having a child at age 53 with a second family,” he said. “Having grandchildren, all those things bring the meaning of life a little more visual, a little more right in your face. Probably cancer is No. 1 on there. If I didn’t have cancer I’d probably be dead by now. I’d probably have had a heart attack or something like that.”

But he didn’t, which is kind of surprising. This is a guy who coached Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp in Seattle, the guy that had a roster including Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Allen Iverson and Kenyon Martin in Denver and now DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo in Sacramento.

That’s a Troubled Player Hall of Fame and Karl somehow has gotten through it.

And thrived and when he passes Jackson and if he can catch Riley and Sloan — it may require another job because there’s every chance the Kings make a coaching change when this season ends — he will again be in a much-deserved spotlight.

Around The League


Another Mt. Cousins eruption

The propensity of Sacramento centre DeMarcus Cousins to lose his cool is well-documented and he was at it again this week. The volatile Cousins was thrown out of a game against Golden State on Monday for getting hit with two technical fouls at the same time and had to be restrained from going after an official. A surprise? Hardly. Since he got to the NBA in 2010, Cousins not only leads all players in accumulated technical fouls (77), but he’s also been thrown out of more games (10) than any other player.

When parties go awry

A rather odd love or, perhaps, anger triangle earned Memphis Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes a two-game suspension from the NBA. Way back in October, Barnes found out that Knicks coach and his former Lakers teammate Derek Fisher was, um, visiting Barnes’s ex-wife for a party in southern California and he didn’t take it too well. Barnes drove about 152 kilometres to the party, chatted with Fisher — who was taking a couple of days off from training camp to visit his kids — and it turned into some kind of physical confrontation the league deemed worthy of a suspension.

Keeping his trap shut

Russell Westbrook has decided enough is enough and vows not to bait or fight with referees any more. Westbrook had a league-high 17 technical fouls in the 2014-15 season and told reporters this week he’s turning over a new leaf.

“I learned in the summer time, once they make a call, they ain’t changing it,” he said. “I watched film, I watched all my techs and all the dumb (stuff) I was doing, so I decided to tell myself, there’s no need to argue.”

Westbrook has three technicals through 31 games this season.

A refreshing new voice

In the crush of televised NBA games on the usual marathon that is Christmas Day, the first one out of the gate provided a most interesting aspect. There wasn’t a lot memorable in Miami’s overtime win over New Orleans on the court, but the NBA broadcast debut of WNBA star Kara Lawson was significant and was greeted with rave reviews, adding another unique voice to NBA broadcasts. Lawson has long worked for ESPN doing college games and studio work but she shone sitting courtside and doing in-game analysis.

An eclipse of the Suns

It’s hard to imagine a team in more disarray than the Phoenix Suns, who seemed ascendant a year ago. They’ve now lost guard Eric Bledsoe for the season after knee surgery to cap what has been a tumultuous time. In the last fortnight, they’ve suspended Markieff Morris two games for tossing a towel at coach Jeff Hornacek and are demanding he apologize to his teammates before he can come back. Management forced Hornacek to fire his two top assistants, which he did so he could keep his tenuous grasp on his own job, and they’ve lost five in a row. Good times, indeed.

Pistons not firing

The Detroit Pistons are an interesting team that seems on the rise and the return of guard Brandon Jennings from injury should help. But they can’t seem to figure it all out yet and guard Bobby Jackson blistered them after a loss to the Knicks this week, their third defeat in a row.

“I’m tired of losing,” he said after the game at Madison Square Garden. “I’m tired of watching fans walk out of here, up 15, knowing they’re going home excited about a win. The season’s not even halfway through. This playoff thing we talk about is not guaranteed. If we want to be there, we got to come out and play like we want to be.”

Time to scour the D-League

We are less than a week away from the Jan. 5 date that means NBA teams can start signing players to 10-day contracts. With the arrival of Raptors905 that’s got a bit more relevance to Toronto fans, not because the big team will make a move — its roster is full and it makes no sense to pay to waive someone for a 10-day guy — but one player who could draw some interest is Ronald Roberts from the D-League affiliate. The Raptors have no claim to him and he would be able to sign a 10-day deal with any NBA team that might want to take a look at him.

Toronto Star

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