Closing the Book on Carlesimo
My mission in New Orleans Saturday night, the first day of the Scott Brooks era, was to get the scoop on what happened to fired coach P.J. Carlesimo, to find out where he went wrong and whether he lost this Thunder team.
But as one player graciously told me after hearing me receive company line after company line before the Thunder took the court against the Hornets, “You know we’re going to take the high road.” Not that it was needed, but that confirmed there was more to the story of Carlesimo’s dismissal. More to it than the Thunder’s 1-12 record, its 10 straight losses, it’s league-worst averages of 17 turnovers, 12-plus point defeats, 40 percent field-goal shooting and its second-to-last ranking of 89 points per game.
But Thunder players did say all the right things Saturday, wishing Carlesimo the best in his future endeavors and even going as far as taking the blame for his downfall. Here are their comments in full. It’s long, but all told it gives you an idea of the mood of the players, all of whom felt some sort of change was needed but stopped short of saying it should have started with Carlesimo’s job.
On his reaction: “It’s never easy, especially when you realize that in this type of game everyone’s involved, everyone failed, not just P.J. So we wish the best for him. We wish we could have done a lot more to help him. But this is where we at right now.”
On whether a change was needed: “It’s not up to me to decide if a change was needed. I feel like whatever the coach wants to do we try to make the best out of it and we try to make it work.”
On whether P.J. lost the team: “I just feel like it was a difficult transition for him coming into the situation. Only he can really answer that question.”
On whether the team respected him: “I’ve always respected P.J. I always will. That’s just me.”
On what went wrong: “I don’t know.”
On his reaction: “I didn’t know it would happen. It caught me off guard. It was a shock. This is my first time going through this. Some of the older guys went through coaching changes and things like that. But P.J. was my first coach when I came into the league so this is something that’s going to stick out to me. When they announced it to the team it came out of nowhere and I was a little shocked. But we got to move forward. We got to move past that. Scotty Brooks is our guy now. I believe in everything he’s going to do for us so we just got to continue to get better.”
On whether a change was needed: “It’s not my position to say if it was needed or not. I think we were getting better. Obviously the front office wanted to make a decision so that’s what they did. But I’m just not in a position to say we needed that or P.J. was a bad guy. We just got to, as players, do our part to help this team win.”
On whether the team respected him as a coach: “I would say so. He demanded a lot out of us. Every day in practice he brought that fire and every day in the game so I would say we respected him. I know I did a lot.”
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