By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
DENVER — George Karl ambles into the Tattered Cover Bookstore for his first signing of his recently released “Furious George” memoir, and he looks refreshed, having dropped from near three bills about 230 pounds.
“I feel terrific,” said Karl, 65, who’s eating right, drinking less, sleeping more and generally enjoying a peaceful existence as a two-time cancer survivor taking what he hopes is just a brief respite from the stress of NBA coaching.
“I think I’m going to win again,” reads Karl’s conclusion in “Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs and Poor Shot Selection.”
“I think I’m going to help kick cancer’s ass once and for all,” he writes. “I think I’m going to win an NBA championship. So I think the book of my life will have one more chapter, maybe two.”
He’ll be hard-pressed to generate as much buzz with the sequel.
Karl’s first book is as in-your-face as any of his Seattle SuperSonics defenses. It’s as brutally honest as any of his emotional postgame assessments during a career in which he amassed more victories (1,175) than all but four men in league history.
In between breakdowns of his coaching philosophies, Karl shows how the same combative style that made him an All-American at North Carolina and a scrapper with the San Antonio Spurs that transferred into his roller-coaster coaching career.
He doesn’t hold back on his criticism of Ray Allen, Kenyon Martin and other superstars with whom he clashed with.
Karl said he and co-author Curt Sampson “talked about the pushback that we might get. But I still think my desire was to have a conversation with the fan, the coach, and I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. I don’t think it was expressing my animosity toward these guys. Because as I’ve gotten older, basketball coaching is not personal, you know? I’m the basketball policeman.”
Karl said he was taken aback by the blowback he got when excerpts were published of his candid account of managing eggshell egos.
He compared three of his Nuggets players — J.R. Smith, Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin — to “spoiled brats you see in junior golf and junior tennis.” He added that Anthony and Martin “carried two big burdens: all that money and no father to show them how to act like a man.”
While Smith tweeted that it was sad Karl was “still trying to stay relevant,” Anthony called Karl’s criticism irrelevant and suggested any detailed response would wait for his own memoir “Staying Melo.” He added, “I just hope he finds happiness in what he’s doing and his book.”
“Melo was actually pretty good about it,” Karl said.
Martin was upset about Karl’s comments.
Upon learning Karl had written that Martin was teased for his stutter and skin color as a kid raised by a single mom, Martin unleashed a series of angry tweets , the tamest being, “Having a lot of wins doesn’t make you a good coach.”
Karl said he didn’t write anything in the book that he hadn’t said to their faces.
“I might not have said it as directly as I said it in the book, but I’ve said it in other ways. I’ve had individual meetings with all these guys and they know what I didn’t like about their games,” Karl said. “You don’t want to say point-blank. Yeah, you put some icing on it.”
He doesn’t go into great detail in his critiques of the stars, just a quick jab here and there.
The book, he said, was about “my love for the game of basketball expressed through the stories and situations that I was in. And I thought the fans deserved a little bit of a peek behind the curtain. But come on, man, there’s a lot more behind that curtain.”
He said he’d be happy to play golf with Allen or break bread with Anthony, Martin and Smith anytime.
In the book, he writes that while he may not have gotten along with his very best players, he certainly got the very best out of them.
And he acknowledges his failures, suggesting, “I just wish someone had managed me, like a coach or GM does with a talented player.”
The book takes the reader into the energy and nervousness of the locker room before a game, on the bus rides through the old minor leagues or across small outposts in Europe where Karl honed his strategies and coaching style.
It also touches on his health and his son Coby’s fight with cancer.
The title is a play on the children’s classic “Curious George,” but “it should be ‘Frustrated George to Friendly George’ because over the last seven, eight, nine, 10 years, I’m mellow compared to frustrated,” Karl said. “But don’t get me wrong. We still get frustrated, unless you just have an elite basketball team.
“Twenty-five of the NBA coaches are probably thinking what I’m thinking or feeling what I’m feeling. Even in winning or in success, there’s always someone ticked, there’s always someone got an ego out of joint.”
Had he learned to better navigate the negativity when he was younger, Karl suggested, “I probably wouldn’t have had as many cancers. The stress of it, it’s not a healthy lifestyle.”
Not enough sleep, too much beer and pizza.
Karl, who last coached with Sacramento last season, said his outlook on life changed five years ago when he almost died from head and neck cancer, forcing him to change his diet for good, becoming an aficionado of veggies and juices more so than steak and hops.
“Basketball was my life,” he writes. “Now, life is my life.”
For all his successes and runs at that elusive NBA championship, Karl writes that his greatest moment in coaching came when his Nuggets squared off against the Lakers in the playoffs when his son Coby was with L.A.
Coby has followed his father’s path into coaching, too, running the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Developmental League. When Karl can’t catch his son in person, he watches his games on Facebook Live.
“It’s a pretty powerful gift,” Karl said. “I think right now it’s my escape.”
Soon enough, though, March Madness will be here and then the NBA playoffs will begin. That’s when Karl knows not being on the hardwood himself and trying to get the most out of another star will start to ache.
He wants another shot to put all of life’s lessons to work and take aim once more at that gold ball he’s been chasing all his life.
“If it’s in the cards, it’ll happen,” Karl said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of good coaching going on. So, maybe someone will go, ‘Karl was pretty freaking good. He might be an idiot but he’s pretty freaking good.'”