Carlesimo becomes new head coach of SuperSonics

It’s been eight years since he was fired from his last head coaching job.

SEATTLE (AP) — 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 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.

“I wanted to be a head coach again, particularly the last couple of years I did start to feel it was going to happen,” Carlesimo said. “But I didn’t feel like it was owed me or I would be incomplete if it didn’t happen again.”

Inherits young team

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.

“Choking” incident

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 eventually was fired by the Warriors early in the 1999 season.

“The NBA is about the players; there is absolutely no question about that,” Carlesimo said. “Hopefully, I have learned from my relations.”

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