“He just demanded so much out of me since the beginning,” Durant said of Carlesimo. “He didn't treat me like a rookie my first year. When I messed up, he got on me. When I did well, he told me I did well. So he was just a great motivator for me and got me better because I wanted to live up to his standards. He's the reason why I've progressed as a player.
“He's a great coach, man. He's a great motivator. He's a player's coach, so I'm sure those guys (the Nets) are playing hard for him.”
Only three players remain from the OKC roster that was in place when Carlesimo was fired on Nov. 21, 2008 — Durant, rookie point guard Russell Westbrook and veteran forward Nick Collison. Forward Serge Ibaka was selected 24th in the 2008 NBA Draft, but played pro ball in Spain that season.
“I think Scotty's done not a good job, I think he's done an incredible job,” Carlesimo told The New York Times following the Nets' practice in San Antonio on Tuesday. “Is that a good roster? Yeah, it's a very good roster. But Scotty and that staff has done an excellent job with it to get it to where it is, in a very short period of time. You don't usually get there that quick.”
Carlesimo said the additions of guard Thabo Sefolosha in 2009 and center Kendrick Perkins in 2011 gave the Thunder a much-needed defensive presence.
“I still go back to Thabo and Perk was a huge change, all of a sudden,” Carlesimo said. “It gave them a physical presence up front and it gave them a wing defender. And ever since then, it's tweak this, that, make different moves.”
Carlesimo then redirected himself back to Durant, who has since become the league's three-time scoring champ.
“But it all starts with the one that they got, the guy that's one of the best, what, two or three players on the planet, and is going to be for a long time, and is a great kid on top of that,” Carlesimo said of Durant. “Oklahoma City is gonna be good for a long time, and Scotty has a ton to do with that. But KD is special.”