Seattle hires Carlesimo as coach
Vail, CO Colorado
SEATTLE ” P.J. Carlesimo was hired Thursday as the new coach of the SuperSonics, eight years after being fired from his last head coaching job and ending Seattle’s search that lasted more than two months.
Carlesimo, who spent the past five years as an assistant in San Antonio, replaces Bob Hill, who was fired on April 24 after Seattle struggled to a 31-51 record in Hill’s only full season leading the Sonics. Carlesimo previously coached the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors.
Carlesimo, 58, will inherit a young team in the middle of a roster overhaul orchestrated by 30-year-old general manager Sam Presti. In the past week, the Sonics traded seven-time All-Star Ray Allen to Boston on draft night, and free agent Rashard Lewis agreed to sign with the Orlando Magic, erasing Seattle’s top two scorers from its lineup.
Carlesimo will oversee the growth and development of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, two of the first five picks from last week’s draft. Seattle selected Durant with the No. 2 pick, then got the rights to Green, the No. 5 selection, in the trade of Allen.
Seattle was the last team in the NBA without a coach.
“He has deep experience in the college and pro game and will immediately instill a highly disciplined, defensive mentality with players that play intelligently and play together,” Sonics’ majority owner Clay Bennett said.
Carlesimo took the Trail Blazers to the playoffs three times in the 1990s, but never advanced out of the first round. It was at Golden State where Carlesimo garnered headlines for his infamous run-in with Latrell Sprewell.
Carlesimo’s intense, in-your-face approach in Golden State almost immediately became an issue when tensions developed between him and Sprewell, his star player.
The emotions boiled over at a practice Dec. 1, 1997, when Sprewell responded to Carlesimo’s terse command of “put a little mustard” on a pass by choking his coach. It took several players and team officials to break up the attack, which an angry Sprewell renewed 15 minutes later.
Carlesimo was eventually fired by the Warriors early in the 1999 season.
When Presti was hired June 7, he was given authority over a coaching search that had dragged in part because the Sonics could not speak with Carlesimo until after the Spurs had won the NBA championship.
Presti and Bennett narrowed the field to Carlesimo and former Minnesota coach and Seattle assistant Dwane Casey. On Tuesday, Casey was informed the Sonics were “going in a different direction.”
Bennett, the Oklahoma City based majority owner of the Sonics, has repeatedly said he wants to model his franchise after San Antonio’s. He has plucked two key pieces from the Spurs: Presti, who was San Antonio’s assistant GM, and now Carlesimo.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.