Monday, July 24, 2017

Review of George Karl's Book

Furious George contained some interesting tidbits. There were certain players that Karl didn't like: Ray Allen and Carmelo Anthony for example. It was fun to relive Karl's former teams. But the book had some problems.

The most frustrating issue was incorrect facts. Karl played four seasons for the San Antonio Spurs- two in the ABA and two less successful seasons in the NBA (which totaled only 33 games). You would think he played all four years in the NBA if you read this book and didn't know any better. He describes a fight with the New York Nets as the longest in NBA history even though it took place in the ABA. He implies that the Virginia Squires were an NBA team.

Karl puts Clyde Drexler on the Houston Rockets two years too early, claiming Seattle "took down Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler and the Rockets in seven in the second round" in '93. Drexler joined Houston in '95. In '93, he was still on Portland.

He claims to have joined the Milwaukee Bucks as head coach during the lockout on August 30, 1999. The lockout ended that previous February. He became head coach in 1998.

Incorrect facts, especially ones so obvious, infuriate me, but the book had some other issues. During the first part of the book, there is a loose chronological order with too many asides and tangents to really be coherent. The book settles down in the second half and becomes mostly linear in organization.

I have no problem with Karl naming players he didn't like. I think he took it too far with his pseudo-psychoanalysis of Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin. Apparently, growing up in poverty in single-parent homes effected them in a certain way. Karl admits he had no experience with either experience and he had trouble getting close to either man. Karl believes Carmelo is a player who cares more about scoring points than winning games and questions Anthony's defensive commitment; that is completely within Karl's expertise and thus a fair analysis. The "psychoanalysis" isn't.

There was also a sorry-not sorry tone to the book. Karl mentions his flaws in dealing with players suffering from substance-abuse (Chris Washburn), depression (Kendall Gill), and addiction (Mel Turpin). He admits that he wasn't knowledgeable enough to handle these issues in an appropriate way. That was refreshingly mature from an ex-jock and longtime NBA head coach. Yet he also shits on these players as if he learned nothing at all.

A similar tone was struck when he discusses racist comments he made about Doc Rivers and "Afro-American" players who are anointed as head coaches. Karl argues that his real point was that some assistant coaches should get looks at the head job instead of ex-players with no coaching experience. That's a legitimate point. But Karl tries to erase the racial tone in his original comment. He's the one who brought up "Afro-American" ex-players. He could have left out the word originally.

But he didn't. So he needed to address the racism in his comments. Karl's explanation in Furious George was about as weak as it gets. First of all, he argues that since he's spent his life in basketball, a sport that employs a lot of black men, he can't be racist. My college basketball coach was certainly racist, describing the team as his "plantation." Karl is a white man "in charge" of black bodies; of course a basketball coach can be racist. His other excuse is that the writer manipulated him into a state of comfort after hanging out for a couple of days. Sounds like Karl's true self came out because he felt comfortable. That's not an excuse. I would've liked him to understand the offensiveness of his comments.

If you can get beyond those issues, it's at least worth a read.

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