The day after he became the seventh NBA coach to win 1,000 games, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl sat down with CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger to discuss the milestone, Carmelo Anthony’s future, and his fight with cancer.
When I sat down with George Karl for an interview at the Pepsi Center last month, we both had a good laugh when he said he was doing his best to avoid “stressful situations” as he continues his recovery from throat and neck cancer. As Karl knows all too well, the words “NBA coach” and “stressful situations” are inseparable.
Since then, Karl has become the seventh member of the NBA’s exclusive 1,000-win club. Heading into the weekend, the Nuggets and Celtics are the only two teams in the NBA with fewer than two home losses (Denver is 11-1 at home). But as he and I predicted back in November when we spoke for this story on his heroic struggle against cancer, Karl is only one whistle, one practice, one meeting away from another one of those stressful situations.
Watch this interview closely, and you’ll see the source of that stress -- Carmelo Anthony and the uncertainty surrounding his future -- shooting jumpers over Karl’s shoulder as we spoke at the Reebok Sports Club in Manhattan on Dec. 11.
“There’s so much fluff, there’s so much gossip, there’s so much innuendo to the scenarios,” Karl said of the Melo situation. “I don’t like playing that game or being involved in that arena. The realness of, I think, what’s good for Melo, what’s good for the Nuggets, and what’s good for George Karl is that he stay in Denver. I’ve said that from the very beginning, I still stand by it. Fortunately, we’ve won enough games that I think we’ve kept most of the B.S. out of the game, off the court. As long as, I think, we keep winning, we’re gonna be OK. And I think we’re good enough to keep winning and we have pieces that will get better.”
Some excerpts from the interview, which airs Friday in the latest edition of CBSSports.com’s “In the Moment” series:
* On 1,000 wins: “For me, it’s a celebration of a good run -- a great run. I never thought I would get here. I never had it as a goal. My family’s kind of pushed me to get 1,000 wins; they thought that would be a marquee that would be pretty nice to have as a family credo a little bit. But in a sense for me, it’s a celebration of so many good people who have helped me.”
* On why he’s stayed in the NBA instead of coaching in college: “I love this game. I’ve thought about going to college, but I’ve always felt that I was a pro coach. I don’t know if I have the patience for the fundamental teachings that have to be taught in college.”
* On his next recovery milestone, a PET scan before Christmas that will determine if he’s cancer-free: “It’ll be a tough couple of days. In general, I feel very healthy. I feel like I’m getting better. I feel like I’m getting stronger. I had the flu like a week ago, and you worry about your immune system. My lymph nodes swelled up because of it, and my lymph nodes is where the cancer was. So you’ve got a lot of nervous stuff going on.”
* On his prognosis: “It’s a good percentage. But it’s not as good as prostate. It’s not as good as some other cancers. So you always have a little more fear.”
* On what word best sums up his life: “I still have time to become a better father and a better grandfather. But if I had to give that word today, it’d be coach. … I’m very proud to be a coach. The day I think I became a better coach is when I realized that’s who I was.”