P.J. Carlesimo

Some of these might not be all good. P.J. Carlesimo became the Golden State Warriors coach in 1997, and he was a bad guy. But don’t take my word for it. That’s what he was billed as … literally. P.J. Carlesimo took over the coaching reins from a gentleman — and I say gentleman for a reason — named Rick Adelman.

Adelman coached the Warriors for two seasons before getting fired. All you need to know about Golden State at the time was that Adelman was successful before the Warriors, with the Portland Trail Blazers, and after the Warriors with the Kings and Rockets. But nobody succeeded in Golden State back then. Rick Adelman was fired after two years with the Warriors because he was too much of a “player’s coach.”

So they brought in Carlesimo, who was known as “Policimo” at the time. The Warriors’ marketing slogan to begin the 1997 season was “No More Mr. Nice Guys!” And it featured a billboard at the base of the Bay Bridge with Carlesimo and his assistant coaching staff wearing dark sunglasses, like they were bad-asses.

The reference was clear: There’s a new sheriff in town! The Warriors were going from a soft-spoken, knowledgeable coach in Rick Adelman to a ball-buster and a yeller and a screamer in P.J. Carlesimo. The whole thing became a pretext for what would occur later: Latrell Sprewell choking Carlesimo out. That would come about six months after Carlesimo’s hiring.

There’s an old saying that if you can’t say anything good about someone don’t say anything at all. So, here are two positive qualities of Carlesimo: He remembered names like nobody I’ve ever known. I mean everybody. He learned my name from Day 1, and he knew it when I’d bump into him 20 years later. The guy was just unreal with names.

He also could be generous. Before my first daughter was born, I received a box in the mail. It was a Warriors’ onesie for her. Nice gesture, no doubt. But as I would come to know Carlesimo he always reminded me of that one Bob Dylan line: “They smile to your face but behind your back they hiss.”

And that’s what P.J. Carlesimo did. I remember one time talking to Duane Ferrell, one of the classiest players and executives I’ve met in this business. Duane was a grown-up, and that’s the way he talked to you. I was young in my career, just learning the ropes of beat-writing and reporting in the NBA.

One time I’m talking to Duane in the locker room, and Carlesimo walks by. “Don’t tell him anything, Duane,” Carlesimo butted in. Carlesimo smiled, but that was the problem. He was dead serious. How do I know? Because Duane told me.

“He calls you the ‘dumb fucks,’ ” Ferrell said. “What are you talking about,” I replied. “P.J.” … Ferrell said … “He calls you guys the ‘dumb fucks,’ you guys in the media. Like after he talks to us after the game but before you guys (the media) come in … He always says: Now don’t say anything stupid to the ‘dumb fucks.’ “

I can’t tell you how much that bothered me. Not that he referred to me like that, but because he smiled to my face 99 percent of the time. I’m not hear to brag about my basketball pedigree. I have little … a dad who played at Kutztown, coached at Muhlenberg and then officiated. I played high school, then Division III. I was never going to be a pro and was never going to be a pro coach, but I didn’t love the game any less than Carlesimo. I didn’t have any less of a thirst for understanding the game than Carlesimo.

Carlesimo certainly wasn’t the first coach with disdain for the media. But he was the first coach I came across that was so dishonest about it.

About Steinmetz

Matt Steinmetz is a veteran San Francisco Bay Area sports journalist. He covered the Golden State Warriors for the Bay Area News Group for more than a decade before becoming a television analyst with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Steinmetz can be heard on "Steiny & Guru" on 95.7-FM The Game in San Francisco, from 12-3.
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2 Responses to P.J. Carlesimo

  1. Anonymous says:

    Was never a fan of Carlesimo. now I dislike him even more. Thank you for that.


  2. ecm says:

    Was the 2×4 part of the Spree/pj thing true? Was lumber involved? Infinitely better than just the choking…


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