P.J. Carlesimo, Tom Thibodeau react to Jason Collins' announcement

Nets, Bulls coaches express support for 12-year NBA veteran
04/29/2013 6:47 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
On Monday, it was learned in an exclusive Sports Illustrated article that 12-year NBA veteran Jason Collins came out as gay, giving a first-hand account of his life story and his decision to come out as the first openly gay male athlete in American professional team sports.

Prior to Game 5 of Brooklyn’s Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Chicago, current Nets general manager Billy King, All-Star center (and fellow Stanford alum) Brook Lopez, and shooting guard Joe Johnson, who played with Collins in Atlanta, released official statements about Collins’ decision.

In addition, in each of their pregame press conferences, Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo and Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau were asked about Collins’ admission, to which they offered the following quotes.

“I think it’s great that Jason did it and it’s extremely courageous on his part,” Carlesimo said. “I think the NBA will react very, very well; we’re only a tiny part of society, but I think we’ll react well.”

“I don’t know Jason well, but we met with him last summer and I was very impressed with him as a person,” Thibodeau said. “Two close friends of mine have coached him, and they’ve raved about him as a person, as a player and as a leader, so I don’t think it was a big deal. In today’s society, that’s normal. I was very impressed with him, my opinion of him hasn’t changed one bit, and I’m happy for him.”

Both men were also asked about Collins’ remark that he was glad he didn’t come out back in 2003 – and specifically what may have changed in the league atmosphere over the last decade to make Collins say that – and both coaches offered thoughts about a shift in society and the NBA’s reflections of that.

“I just think it’s reflective of society. The NBA has always been open-minded and I think it will continue to be so, so I don’t see it as being a problem,” Thibodeau said.

“I really don’t know an accurate answer to that, I can only give an opinion because I’ve been (in the NBA) since then – but I think the NBA reflects society, and I think society is a lot more mature or accepting or ready for acting the way we should act right now,” Carlesimo said. “I don’t know that if it had happened in 2003 it would’ve been any different, and I don’t know if I can say I’m glad this didn’t happen in 2003 because we wouldn’t have been ready then; I think we very well could’ve, and I hope that we’d react even better than the rest of society, given the family aspect and what we all do together every year.”

Also asked about if he would be concerned about any locker room issues having an openly gay player might cause, Carlesimo emphatically said, “No, I would not, and I don’t think our players would either.”

Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES comments