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Get to know P.J. Carlesimo

An in-depth look at the career of the Nets' interim coach
12/28/2012 11:55 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

P.J. Carlesimo was brought to the Nets by Avery Johnson prior to the 2011-12 season.(AP)
The P.J. Carlesimo era begins tonight in Brooklyn, as the new interim head coach of the Nets takes his team into battle against Charlotte in the first game of back-to-back.

The ascension to interim coach after Avery Johnson’s firing on Wednesday makes this the 63-year-old Carlesimo’s fourth NBA head job, and one he may never have even considered having when he became a Nets assistant less than 13 months ago.

Nets GM Billy King said on Thursday that while the team was looking for a full-time replacement, he told Carlesimo to coach as if he’s going to be in Brooklyn for the next 10 years – and whether the Carlesimo era lasts one game or that entire projected decade, he brings quite a resume to the table.

NCAA Phase One: From Player to Boss
Born and raised in Scranton, Penn., Carlesimo went to Fordham University, where he played basketball from 1967-71, the final year under the legendary Digger Phelps. Upon graduation, Carlesimo became an assistant to new Fordham coach Hal Wissel, holding that post until 1975, when he got his first head gig at New Hampshire College. After one 14-13 season, Carlesimo came back to the Tri-State Area to become the head coach at Wagner College, where he stayed from 1976-1982 and led the Seahawks to a pair of NIT appearances.

The Seton Hall Era: P.J. becomes a local icon
In 1982, Carlesimo was named head coach at Seton Hall University, where he stayed for twelve years and won 212 games. In 1988, he led the Pirates to their first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, and the following year, he led them to the finals of that tournament, where they lost to by one point in overtime to a Michigan team featuring future NBA stars Rumeal Robinson and Glen Rice. Overall at the Hall, Carlesimo was a two-time Big East Coach of the Year, was named the school’s “Coach of the Century,” and led the Pirates to a four Big East Tournament or regular-season titles, and six NCAA Tournament Appearances (including another Elite Eight appearance in 1991).

During that tenure, he also became a Hall of Famer, as he was one of Mike Krzyzewski’s assistants on the U.S. National Team staff in the 1990 FIBA World Championships, and went on to join Coach K as one of Chuck Daly’s assistants on the 1992 “Dream Team” that won the Olympic Gold Medal and was, as a unit, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Off to Portland: Carlesimo’s first NBA action
In the summer of 1994, Carlesimo left Seton Hall to become head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. In three seasons with the Blazers, Carlesimo went 137-109 and led the team to three straight playoff appearances, but failed to get out of the first round in any of those years and was let go after the 1996-97 season. Carlesimo was then hired by Golden State, but found much less success; he went just 43-116 in parts of three seasons, was the victim of an infamous attack by Latrell Sprewell in 1997, and was relieved of his duties 27 games into the 1999-2000 season after a 6-21 start.

P.J. and Pop: A Dream Coaching Team
After another full season off, Carlesimo was brought on by San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich in 2002 to be the lead assistant on his staff. There, Carlesimo was part of his first championship, as the Spurs won the NBA Title in 2002-03, and then won two more in 2004-05 and 2006-07. Following that third title, Carlesimo earned his third NBA head gig.

Sonic Thunder: Managing a Move
Much like Avery Johnson with the New Jersey and then Brooklyn Nets, Carlesimo was hired by Seattle in 2007 and coached one year there before the team relocated to Oklahoma City. Carlesimo went 20-62 during that Seattle season, but lasted just 13 games in Oklahoma City, getting fired on November 28, 2008 after the Thunder started the season 1-12.

Back to the bench: Carlesimo’s next moves
After leaving OKC, Carlesimo spent the next year as a television and radio commentator for both the NBA and NCAA basketball before returning to the bench in 2010, this time as an assistant to Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano. Toronto went 22-60 in 2010-11, and when Triano was moved to a different position within the organization following that season, Carlesimo also went elsewhere – coming to New Jersey in December 2011 to be Avery Johnson’s top assistant with the Nets, a position he held for 385 days before being promoted to interim coach upon Johnson’s firing on Thursday.

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES

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