SAN JOSE, Calif. -- George Karl is still coaching. But George Karl isn't still COACHING!!
It's been three years since Karl, then the Warriors' coach, ripped the doors off Joe Barry Carroll's locker after the center's lackluster performance during a playoff loss. It's been more than two years since Karl humiliated a referee by berating him before a sellout crowd during a timeout and, on another occasion, angrily pushed away an assistant coach during a close game.
To Karl, that was COACHING!!
Now, he's simply coaching.
"I think I'm more relaxed now," said Karl, who this week is making his first appearance in the Bay Area since resigning as the Warriors' coach in March 1988. "I can enjoy the game more, being away from it more. I don't run every practice and conduct every drill. I'm into golf."
But don't let Karl, 39, fool you. He is into basketball, too. And in a very big way.
Since his two-season stint with the Warriors, Karl has posted a 36-18 record with the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association in 1988-89 and coached Real Madrid of Spain to a 69-17 mark last season.
Now he's back with the Patroons (16-1), who set a CBA record with 14 consecutive victories to open the season and who take on the Jammers at 7:35 tonight at San Jose State. Albany defeated the Jammers, 128-123, in overtime Tuesday.
"I've got the greatest coach on my staff now -- his name is winning," Karl said with a laugh. "Fortunately, I've had him on my side for the past three years. It's made me a lot saner."
Karl says he took over the Patroons for the sole purpose of winning a CBA championship -- "our expectations in Albany are not just to be a good team" -- but he also hopes his success will get him another shot at coaching on the NBA level.
"I hope it does, too," Warriors Coach Don Nelson said. "He's good for our profession. He's a good bench coach, an excellent evaluator of talent. He's good with the players. I don't think he has an area where he's weak when it comes to coaching. "
All of which is a little confounding, considering Nelson was the one who replaced Karl as Warriors coach after earlier helping to hire Karl.
Nelson wouldn't divulge any of the circumstances surrounding Karl's departure. ("I don't know what the word on that is; I'll let you write about that.")
The reasons Karl abruptly left in 1988 are still vague. The Warriors say he resigned, yet they paid him the two remaining years on his contract and asked him and his wife to sign non-disclosure agreements stating they wouldn't talk about his departure.
Some say Karl stepped over boundaries by asking for a contract extension and that he let losing -- the Warriors were 16-48 at the time of his dismissal -- get to him too much. Also, that a year after guiding the Warriors to a 42-40 record and their first playoff berth in 10 years, he resisted management's move to "strengthen" the team by acquiring Ralph Sampson and Steve Harris for Carroll and Sleepy Floyd.
And, that owners Jim Fitzgerald and Dan Finnane wanted Nelson as coach all along.
Karl doesn't deny parts of it.
"I think at the time I was a little too intense and dogmatic. Those are the things that make me a good coach, but at the same time I have to see the trees around me," he said. "We traded Purvis Short, Chris [Mullin] was in rehab, we traded for Sampson, and Sleepy wasn't on the court anymore," Karl said. "We were starting guys like Dave Feitl and Winston Garland, somebody who I had waived earlier and had to bring back.
"With all the trades, I didn't handle them well," he said. "I got paranoid, and you don't listen as well. You do crazy things when you're paranoid."
Karl said maturity has settled him down, made him more rational. The bitterness he had for the Warriors is gone, he says. He played tennis with Nelson Wednesday and met Tuesday with Warriors scout Ed Gregory, his former assistant coach.
"I still follow the Warriors and the NBA like I was in it," he said. "I have tremendous respect for the Warriors. They made a decision that turned out to be a good one -- by hiring Nellie, not firing me. The only sadness I have is I wanted Don Nelson and George Karl to work. But it didn't, so you go on."