George Karl commands a room, be it a media setting or a downtown bar visit with fans eager for a new era and ready for a grand old coach, whose spirit belies his 63 years.
Here are some sound bites from Karl on Tuesday after he was introduced as the Kings coach.
▪ On the large media gathering in the Kings practice facility: “I haven’t seen a crowd like this since the NBA Finals (when he led Seattle against Chicago in 1996).”
▪ On being back in the game: “I’ve been out of basketball for a year and a half. The older I get, the more humble I get. There’s only 30 of these NBA jobs. I missed the gym. I love the game. I want one more shot to win a championship.”
▪ On the Kings culture of late, including losing 20 of 27 games after the unpopular termination of coach Michael Malone: “It’ll take the next few games to wash away the basketball hell they’ve been living the last two months. We need to reconnect and re-energize it.”
▪ On best-hope scenario for the Kings with 30 games to go: “I have all the confidence in the world. We just need to get to work. Winning in the NBA is not an easy process. I think we can get better. We have 30 games left to play the game at a better level, to play the game more together, play the game where fans appreciate the effort. I think there’s enough talent to win games, to come back and connect with one another, to be a good, solid team. It’s going to take time. There’ll probably be some ugly games. There are going to be some things I’m stubborn on. I’ve got to adapt to their talents and their skills and their abilities. I want an aggressive, intense, energized team.”
▪ On building a rapport with Kings center DeMarcus Cousins: “I’m excited to work with DeMarcus, who is the most talented big guy I’ve coached in my life. To have the skills and the size he has, it’s going to be a motivator for me to get him at a higher level than he is now ... . Cousins to me is the most skilled big guy in the NBA right now, an incredible rebounder, an improving defensive player, and an offensive guy who probably doesn’t have a weakness.”
▪ On coaching and living in a small-market city: “I always thought Sacramento was a great small-market city. Most of my career, I played in small markets. I enjoy small markets. I enjoy the communities. Sacramento seems to be my type of energy. There’s an energy in the city that is contagious. It’s time to get back, to get back to the crazy spirits that go on in a coach’s life.”
▪ On the spirited Kings-Seattle first-round playoff series in 1996, won by the Sonics, and how it saved his career: “I remember Sacramento from 1996, my greatest year as a coach, to the NBA Finals. To win Games 3 and 4 (in noisy Arco Arena) was probably the most miserable games of my life. The Sonics had lost two years in a row in an opener. If we lost to Sacramento that year, my career would be different. I probably would’ve been fired and maybe never been a head coach again. Sacramento has a beginning in my life, that series, that motivated my career to a positive place.”
▪ On the prospects of a new downtown arena, which Karl visited with a hard hat: “It’s going to be the world’s best arena. It’s going to be better than Staples, better than all the new ones everyone thinks are cool. Now I become a piece of this. I’m excited.”
▪ On using and solving social media outlets, such as Twitter: “I’m not very electronically inclined. I joined Twitter a couple of years ago. My son (Coby) put me on it. One weekend, my phone beeped 12,000 times. I didn’t know how to turn it off. It went on for three days. ‘Coby, what did you do?’ He got Shaq to hashtag me or something. I do know how to send texts.”
▪ On the reaction of fans embracing his arrival: “I definitely feel the pulse, the karma of the fans of Sacramento.”
▪ On the soap opera of the Kings relocation fears, including to Seattle: “In a strange way, it was going to be Seattle or Sacramento. Most of my friends in Sacramento thought it was done here. I always felt it was wrong for Sacramento to lose its team, maybe because it happened to Seattle. It just didn’t feel right.”
▪ On his eagerness to get started: “I’m excited. I’m pumped up. I am watching film and thinking, ‘Oh man, how can we fix that?’ That’s why I need the court. I need to know what we are, what we can do. I’m done talking. Let’s play!”
The Kings coaching cycle by the numbers
0 Winning seasons or playoffs since Rick Adelman left in 2006.
4 Times George Karl coached the NBA All-Star Game.
8 Kings coaches since Adelman led eight successive playoff teams.
16 Kings coaches since 1985.
22 Playoff teams under Karl.
25 Years of NBA head coaching for Karl.
57 Number of wins for Denver under Karl in 2012-13, a franchise record.
80 Number of playoff wins for Karl.
1,131 Number of career wins for Karl.
1988 Karl’s last losing NBA season.
2003 Year Karl won NBA Coach of the Year honors