George Karl: Don't Judge A Book By Its Controversy

George Karl: Don't Judge A Book By Its Controversy

'Furious George' is much more than just controversial.
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Too often, misguided words uttered in a small portion of a piece of work blind us to the central message of the work as a whole. George Karl’s recent book, Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection, everyone in the NBA can agree on one thing: George Karl is wrong, crazy, and possibly bigoted.

In particular, his quote regarding two of his players on the Denver Nuggets: “Kenyon and Carmelo carried two big burdens: all that money, and no father to show them how to act like a man,” has drawn him widespread condemnation across the league, and rightfully so. His conspiracy theories regarding how some playoff series he has coached has also drawn speculation that maybe Karl has actually gone crazy.

However, these examples shouldn’t invalidate everything Karl has to say. As we’ve seen with the rallies and words of our now President Trump, our concentration and focus on condemnation has blinded us to what may have attracted so many voters to him in the first place.

In "Furious George", the keynote that a reader takes away is, yes, the NBA is a business. Karl cites Game 7 of the 1993 Western Conference Finals as an example that the league can be unfair. The game between Karl’s Seattle SuperSonics and the Phoenix Suns, led by Charles Barkley, would decide who would ultimately battle the Chicago Bulls in the Finals. The Suns shot 64 free throws, compared to the Sonics’ 36. Barkley would shoot 22. According to Karl, the most likely conclusion is that the league would benefit more financially from having the league MVP, Barkley, in the finals, as opposed to a team of nobodies that Karl coached. No one can dispute the discrepancy in the number of free throws shot by both teams, and this led me to wonder: does the NBA value the business or the game more?

We can shrug off this case all we want, but the 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers, were also horribly officiated series that led to the more superstar-loaded and bigger market teams making the Finals in seven games. As fans, it is our responsibility to not neglect that the NBA’s business interests can sometimes interfere with the game.

In addition, one thing to take away from the book is that the human side to Karl. Seeing the perspective of a coach, I realize that sometimes, as a student-athlete myself, I have unrealistic expectations for my coaches, and don’t understand that their intentions are always in my best interest. While Karl’s book can be seen as a “hit piece” against “divas” in the NBA such as Carmelo, Gary Payton, and DeMarcus Cousins, we don’t see the touching and difficult parts of Karl’s career as a coach.

George Karl starts off one chapter by saying “I coached a game drunk once.” Immediately, I shook my head and judged Karl for this decision. No wonder people are talking so much shit about him, I thought. Is this dude serious? However, he then goes into the details. In Karl’s tenure at Real Madrid in Spain, his star player, Fernando Martin Espina, had died in a car accident in the middle of the 1989 season. After Fernando’s burial, the team went out to a restaurant, drank, and told stories about Fernando, even though they had a game later that night. During the game, the team retired Fernando’s jersey and came back from a 19 point deficit to take a 15 point lead. At the amazing and emotional spectacle, the crowd chanted in Spanish: “Fernando is here! Fernando is here!” I realized then that my rush to judgment was wrong, and felt satisfyingly fooled.

In addition, Karl details two of the most heart-wrenching moments of his life. First, in the spring of 2005, he was diagnosed with cancer. Six months later, his son, Coby Karl, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. “I wondered if I’d done something wrong. Had I contributed some bad DNA? Had it been his nutrition or, somehow mine? I only knew I wanted to snatch away Coby’s cancer and take it myself.” In this emotional part of the book, I couldn’t help but share in George Karl’s pain.

The point of this article is to convey that although offensive and downright hurtful words were written in this book, it shouldn’t disqualify it as a memoir as a whole. For anyone that wants to learn about a coach’s experience in the NBA, the business’s inner dealings, or just the poignant journey of Karl himself, this book is a must-read. As a 65-year-old man who has gone through cancer, we can understand this book as an accomplished coach's attempt to look back and gain insight on his career.

In the words of the Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey: "'Furious George' is controversial, but is much more as well."

Cover Image Credit: http://www.sportingnews.com/nba/news/george-karl-comments-book-furious-george-nba-steroids-ped/1vikpmmlzb4gp1tiglr8j8pd4q

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To All Student-Athletes Beginning Their Respective Seasons, Remember Why You Play

You are going to get tired. You are going to get worn out...

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Dear athlete,

The season is by far the most exciting time of the year. Big plays, good memories, traveling new places, and winning championships... But yet another promise is that season is also exhausting.

You are going to get tired. You are going to get worn out...

But remember that this season of your life doesn't last forever. Remind yourself why you play.

You play this sport because you love the game. You love the competition, you love your teammates and the friendships that you've formed, you love the lessons you learn aside from the physical aspect.

So each day, continue to choose the game.

It's not easy. But if it was, everyone would do it. But discomfort is where progress happens.

Quit dreading practices, quit wishing for rain, quit complaining about conditioning, and quit taking for granted a busy schedule that is literally made just for you. Tens of thousands of young girls and boys would do anything to be in the position (literally) that you are in. Take advantage of being a role model to those young kids who think the world of you.

Freshmen, this is what you have wanted for so long. Take advantage of the newness, take advantage of the advice, encouragement, and constructive criticism that your older teammates give you. Soak it all in, four years goes by really quickly.

Sophomores, you now know how it works. Be confident in your abilities, yet continue to learn and grow mentally and in your position.

Juniors, prepare to take the lead. Use this season to, of course, continue to sharpen your skill, but also recognize that you're over halfway done, so mentally and physically ready yourself to take the seniors' lead next year.

Seniors, this is it. Your last year of playing the sport that you love. Be a good leader, motivate, and leave your mark on the program in which you have loved for so long. Encourage the athletes behind you to continue the traditions and standards set by the program. Lay it all on the field, leave it all on the court, and leave your program better than you found it.

Take the season one day at a time and, each day, make it your goal to get better. Get better for your team, for you pushing yourself makes everyone else work even harder. So even if you don't get a lot of playing time, make your teammates better by pushing yourself so hard that they have no other choice than to push themselves too. And when a team has every single player pushing themselves to the max, success happens.

Take advantage of this time with your teammates and coaches, for they won't be your teammates and coaches forever.

No matter what year you are and no matter what your role is this season... GROW. You are an integral part of your team and your program.

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Moving into the new year...

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