The Angriest Man In America

The George Karl book tour continued its dive into rough waters without a paddle. To Karl’s surprise, the outrage grew exponentially angrier. Even though Karl during his NBA career was often exasperating to get along with, his blatant shock at the public reaction to the book Furious George was revealing. Lacking perception outside of himself, particularly as it relates to the culture of sports where he made a living the past three decades, it is a George Karl self inflicted wound that has damaged his reputation.

Media and fans aren’t naive about the imperfections of the NBA industrial complex. However, If you critique their obsession, then critique it. Like the late football coach Denny Green once said, “If you want to crown them, then crown them.” But make cogent arguments. Have facts to back it up. Have a point of view you sustain. These are the small details Karl didn’t consider when planning his subjective and inadequately reasoned book. When pressed for details on his various rants, Karl found himself having to walk back a lot of his anger, hostility and random statements he couldn’t defend and it begs the question: if he can’t defend it how can we trust it is how he feels in the first place. Is this whole fiasco for show? And money?

George Karl the egocentrist is for the first time on center stage. Everyone is talking about him, for once. But this is what Karl didn’t plan. There was going to be a massive reaction as his information triggered a bias nerve and then was processed through various litmus channels, accuracy being one of them. There is nothing wrong with being angry for legitimate reasons but show humility and intellectualism and an analytical ability where that anger is the foundation for everything that comes after. Don’t promise more and give less.

George Karl whines in the book. A lot. It makes sense. He has never had cover. He has never had the championship shroud to wrap himself in so he could say and do whatever he wanted and people looked the other way because he guided men to the trophy. He never had the most popular players in the league on his team and so was forgiven. He never coached in a glamorous market that overlooked obvious moral failings. Furthermore, as a coach, he never outed his players shortcomings in the media or forwarded conversations about many of the NBA backstories that got swept under the rug but were significant for discussion. Karl was never provocative in thought.

Clearly, having won 1100 NBA games Karl has a lot of insight, perspective and war stories plus the wounds that go with it. But unlike some of his coaching peers that fell into great situations, Karl was never lucky. He had Hall of Fame players but at the wrong time and on the wrong team. He coached Ray Allen but Allen lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Allen Iverson. He coached Gary Payton but Payton lost in the NBA Finals to Michael Jordan. He coached Carmelo Anthony but Anthony lost in the Western Conference Finals to Kobe and Shaq. He didn’t coach DeMarcus Cousins long enough to make a difference. Still that didn’t stop him from calling the  Kings owner an immigrant who makes bad decisions. (However firing Karl wasn’t one of those Randive bad decisions.)

Five years from now when George Karl’s name is brought up for discussion, those who remember him at all will talk about 2017 and the shallow details Karl wants everyone to accept as fact just because he said them. His career will be an afterthought, an asterisk, a tag line. This book is something he is going to regret.

The irony is it takes 30 years to build a career and one book to make those 30 years invisible.

What Karl manages very successfully is to throw out innuendo via blanket statements without any proof or evidence to back them up. They lack foundation and deductive reasoning. He ridiculously concluded that Kenyon Martin was difficult to coach because he came from a household without a father. He attached to Martin and by default, children raised by single mothers, the labels of selfish and incapable of adhering to the norms of a team culture because, by no fault of their own and for a variety of reasons, they didn’t have fathers in the home. He was not revealing some hidden sociological truth about black families. He didn’t absorb his opinion in statistical research that explain behavior. Rather he grasped onto the low hanging fruit of zero facts about the impact of black men without fathers and how they achieve as adults. It sounded good to him so he said it.

This is what the book Furious George has descended into. It may have been in its conception that pretty thing on a hill but now it is buried in the valley of rebuke and scorn. Karl’s petty statements about the NBA and their employees lack the appropriate linear path from which tautological evidence is primary. Where are his facts?

Karl’s biggest crime is an inability to make a cogent argument about a serious subject. Take his steroid claim; the NBA has a steriod problem, Karl vehemently believes. They may. But instead of delving into the steroid conundrum- the NBA needs athleticism and not strength and yet steroids have a healing quality many players would benefit from- he just says everyone goes to Germany so they must take steroids. He is speculating. He is guessing. He is not advancing anything of substance.

The book is not even good theory. A theory is an abstract based in thought. Karl admits a lot of what he says in the book are things that are suspicious to him. He has no proof. But he also has no linear logic to make his suspicions seem real. When pressed on the details of his book he either backtracks or does a shrug- maybe, maybe not- which subverts the point of the book by those willing to buy it who want honest and enlightened perspective. They want insight. They want a point of view. They want the truth.

Furious George is a lot of things. The truth is not it.


photo via llananba