CenterStage Preview: P.J. CarlesimoBrooklyn's interim boss talks Nets, Big East, and more with Michael Kay
In the sit-down, conducted earlier in March, Carlesimo discusses his situation with the Nets but also gives his thoughts on several other hot topics, including the breakup of the Big East Conference, his days as a coach on the 1992 Olympic "Dream Team," and even his time mentoring one of the greatest actors of this generation on a basketball court.
Below is just some of what Carlesimo had to say to Michael Kay:
On getting Avery Johnson's blessing upon taking over the Nets after Johnson was fired:
"When (Nets General Manager) Billy King 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 want to get a job."
On 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; 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, and he's already shown that he's willing to do that. Secondly, he's very serious about it; his line of questions was, if you ask about a certain player, Brook Lopez, for instance: "What's he like?" "Well, I really like him, he's a good big man," (to which) 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 going to be a good piece on us winning a championship?"
On the demise and restructuring of the Big East Conference:
"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."
On how he always planned to 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's head men's basketball coach in 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 seventh assistant basketball coach."
On coaching 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."
To hear more from Carlesimo, tune into an all-new CenterStage with Michael Kay on Monday, March 18, at 10:30 p.m., immediately following Nets-Pistons postgame coverage on YES.