This post is pretty self-gratifying, but I thought I'd share this story with you on the day of P.J. Carlesimo's return to Oklahoma City. If not now, then when?
You see, when I was a kid, I got into following professional basketball via playing NBA Live 98. The game was really easy (for some reason, Luc Longley would take all of the shots for the Bulls). So, to make it a challenge, I played with the absolute worst team: The Golden State Warriors. Ever since, I've been a huge Warriors fan. But, more importantly, P.J. Carlesimo coached that team.
So when I heard that Carlesimo was coming to Oklahoma City many years later, along with two Warriors that had played under him, Joe Smith and Donyell Marshall, I was understandably psyched. It was like the dream of my life coming full circle. Of course, Donyell Marshall never played, Carlesimo was fired, and Joe Smith was traded mid-season. But one moment stands out to me from back then. I went to the Thunder logo unveiling back in 2008, which several players and press were present at. There was a huge line to get into the team store, and I was waiting a good deal of time to get in. In the middle of waiting, I got a pat on the back.
All of a sudden, standing in front of me was the man himself, P.J. Carlesimo. I had never met an NBA player or coach up to that point, aside from a passing wave via Adonal Foyle. Thus, to see P.J. standing in front of me, even at the ripe age of 17, was extremely unnerving. At the time, I was wearing a Sonics jersey. I had purchased the jersey a few months beforehand with the thought that the team would keep the name. I thought I'd wear it on the last opportunity for it to be relevant, but most people thought I had come to protest from Seattle. So much so that I was interviewed by several local news outlets at the time.
P.J. wasn't really concerned with my protest though. All he said was a passing, "We need to get you a number 35 jersey." At that point, I said a weak "Oh, yeah!" as he walked away. Given a split second to respond, I didn't want to let the golden opportunity go to waste. So I bellowed out after him, "Oh, hey, I loved you when you coached for the Warriors!" I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now that I think back on it, he probably thought I was trolling him. Also, "loved you" probably wasn't the right choice of words. But when he looked at me, he probably saw the genuine expression on my face. P.J. responded with a final "Thanks." before walking to whatever press interview he was doing.
Looking back on it, it's hard not to like P.J. I know that he's way too strict when it comes to coaching and has been generally unsuccessful. But aside from that, it's awesome to have him on the bench. He always wears outrageously patterned sport coats that look like they came from the 80s, along with strange tie patterns. His in-game pictures are hilarious, with frequently used hand-signals, lots of him screaming in players' ears, and lots of squatting for no reason. Not to mention is meticulously well-trimmed beard, or the fact that he eats out at restaurants 364 nights a year.
I know, most people like to recall the time they saw LeBron, Kobe, or KD. But, for me, meeting P.J., a mediocre coach on his way out the door, was one of the coolest moments of my life. And I hope that, somehow, he can find his long-sought for success in Brooklyn.