But being an NBA head coach is a special position and Carlesimo is trying to put the Golden Sate incident behind him once and for all.
Now, he has his opportunity.
"To basketball people, I don't think that's how they know me. ... But for somebody else, depending on how old or young they are, it's where they first came upon you. It's, 'Oh yeah, that's the guy.' For non-basketball people, that will still be the first thing out of their mouths. If you did a general survey of the population, they would say, 'That's the guy who was involved in the Spree thing.'"
The case inspired a heated national discussion on race in sports, and on the acceptable workplace conduct of athletes and coaches (Carlesimo was known at Seton Hall, and later with the Portland Trail Blazers, for his demanding, high-volume approach), ensuring that the assault would trail Carlesimo throughout his career.
Only Carlesimo doesn't think Jackson or either Van Gundy represents the best possible fit in Brooklyn. Asked who he believes in his heart of hearts is the right man for the job, Carlesimo said, "I think I am. Any coach is going to believe he's the best one. I believe I'm the best one for the job, and it would be foolish for me not to believe that.
Brooklyn is a long shot this year, but with a little luck in the first round of the playoffs, and with Phil Jackson likely to wait for the Lakers (or Clippers) to come back to him, Carlesimo might earn a contract for next season and beyond, when the Nets are in the business of credible contention.
You can’t argue with success, and Carlesimo is having success. Granted, he’s only won a single game against a team over .500 (the Thunder), but still he’s beating the teams he needs to beat.
Sunday’s contest against the Pacers will reveal where this team really is. We’re no longer in the opening weeks of the season in which the “team needs to adjust” excuse can be thrown around.
The team no longer needs to adjust to each other but instead must adjust to their new coach, which has gone well through seven games.
It’s not like Carlesimo came out of nowhere. He’s had previous stops as a head coach and was familiar with the Nets from his years as an assistant.
This is his chance to firmly cement himself as the permanent head coach of this team for a while. Sure, there are some higher-profile coaching candidates out there, but winning is all that matters.
With John Paolantonio