NBA H.O.F. Coach George Karl visits with Randy from the KMON morning show.
I had an incredible opportunity to interview NBA Hall of Fame Basketball Coach George Karl earlier this month. Here is the transcript of our interview:
Randy: So you're living in Denver now?
Coach Karl: Most of the time I live out in Denver. I travel a lot (unidentifiable) but I love Denver and it's my home right now.
Randy: If you don't mind, Coach first, I certainly do appreciate you taking take a few minutes out for us. You spent about three years in Great Falls, back in 1980-1983 with the Montana Golden Nuggets. Do you remember your time here?
Coach Karl: I love my time there. I had a great time. I think I grew up a lot in the CBA, and a lot of my NBA experiences, I think has helped me in the NBA a lot. I focused back on how the CBA you got to be versatile or you got to be creative. You got to be ready for someone to leave your team or an injury. I think it was a great learning experience. Made my time in Great Falls and in Albany, New York,
Randy: So you've had a chance to travel the world because of basketball. Talk about the type of experiences basketball has afforded you.
Coach Karl: Well, I think you look back on it, I've been blessed. I've lived a life of being in the gym and competing and doing something I have a passion for. I've had a lot of good teams, but I've also had difficult losses. I've been fired a lot. But right now I have a great family. I have two older kids, both family. My son is a basketball coach and my son in law is a basketball coach. And I have a lot of love for the game of basketball and to be able to live my life and become a wealthy man because for some reason we paid coaches millions of dollars. I have a great life off the court too. So I look back at my successes as just a tremendous journey and a very blessed journey.
Randy: You recently was awarded the Naismith Hall of Fame honor, which is a tremendous honor. Is that something you ever dreamt of or is that just something that you achieve and you're just fortunate? Talk about that if you would, please.
Coach Karl: Early in the career you think about surviving, but as I started winning a lot of games, and I think when I first really started thinking about maybe a hall of Fame type of career was when I got 1000 wins. I competed at a high level. I got some of the greatest coaches in the world, and I think I held my own. But in the same sense, did I ever really think about it. I think it was more summer talk. I think every once in a while my family would get together and we'd talk about it a little bit, but I don't think I ever it wasn't a cloud that was in my mind every day that I was trying to make the hall of fame. My job was to make my team as good as a good place to prepare to win in the season I was in. That was my focus mostly. I think in the summertime when you start talking basketball with friends and family, you might drift through what may be what could happen, but it never was not high passion in my life. I think once I retired or my last year in Sacramento, I think I probably thought about more after that. Would it happen? Could it happen? When would it happen? But I never really did anything to pursue it. I kind of always had the attitude, if it happens, if it comes my way, I'll honor it and be humbled by it. And fortunately, it came my way. And I'll be honest with you, it was great. Most special things, I think, fall a little short and being special, but my weekend at the Hall of Fame this past September (inducted September 8, 2022), it was really special because of my friends and family that showed up, and it seemed like everybody had a really good time, and that really meant a lot to me.
Randy: Coach, you've been around some absolute incredible people in the industry coached by Dean Smith. You've had an opportunity to coach a lot of folks. You've worked with Michael Jordan. Now you were just ahead of him in school, at college, correct?
Coach Karl: A little bit. I graduated 73. I just graduated 79 or 78. I don't know.
Randy: Who throughout your entire career, if you had to say, the one or two top players that you really learned a lot from or really got to know the best, who would that be?
Coach Karl: My life was influenced by Dean Smith as much as anybody. I looked at Coach Smith as my second father, a mentor throughout my life, and became a very close friend at the end of his life. And I miss him every day. I think about (North) Carolina almost every day. I think the players that probably were instrumental and maybe guys that I really liked being on my team, I think the guy that comes to mind would be Nate McMillan in Seattle and probably Chauncey Billups here in Denver. I know they're both point guards, but I kind of gravitated to my leadership in the point guard position. I played point guard. That's where Coach Smith mentored me. And I got close to those two guys, I think Gary Payton was tremendous in Seattle. He and Ray Allen for smaller probably the only guys I've ever coached that are in the hall of fame with me. But, you know, I've been blessed with really good relationships and good friendships with a lot of my players. Probably the team I love the most is the Sonics in Seattle. I really would like to see the NBA bring the team back to Seattle in my lifetime. I hope it happens, and I think it's because of the seven years I was in Seattle were so special and getting the NBA Finals, coaching Gary and Shawn (Kemp), but also coaching Nate, Detlef Schrempf. And a lot of guys are really good basketball players and we won a lot of basketball games in my seven years in Seattle,
Randy: The atmosphere in the NBA is so much different than when you were a player and then through the ABA and then, of course, a coach. Would your style fit in today's NBA?
Coach Karl: I definitely think that I think they're playing a lot like I was playing my last couple of years in Denver and in Sacramento. Playing fast has become cool in the NBA. I played fast all my career, and I believe in playing an up tempo game and a game dictated by playing before the defense set, trying to trade offense with your defense. I don't know if I have the energy to coach 100 games a year, but I think my mind is still very much into the game. I studied all the time. I mentor some coaches in the NBA. I have some guys who are still in the NBA. They were my guys. And Darvin Ham (head coach Los Angeles Lakers) just got a job. He's a good friend of mine and I'm happy for him. Jamahl Mosley (head coach Orlando Magic) was on my staff who got a job in Orlando last year. He's doing a hell of a job in Orlando. I'm always around the game. I have not left the game. It's still in my blood. And being in Denver, coaches come into town, we go to lunch for dinner. The first thing we talk about is how is NBA and what's the changes that are going to happen, how is the game evolving, where is it going and who won't be the best thing. I'm happy it's going to be starting up here in about a week and it will be exciting to see it will be an exciting season to see who comes to the top of the mountain.
Randy: Who's your preseason favorite coach?
Coach Karl: Wow. Everybody in the NBA talk to kind of like Clippers. If John Wall has a good year, I would probably say them. I really think Golden State doesn't have enough to repeat. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. But I think the Draymond Green stuff and the injury stuff, the Klay Thompson, I just think it's really hard because the west is really good this year and the east is getting better. So I thought I put the Clippers a little ahead of Gold State in the west. There's a lot of young teams out in the west that I think are going to be really interesting. You got Memphis. You got Dallas. I think Minnesota is an interesting team with their decisions they made in the off season. Phoenix has been on a good run, but they seem the ownership stuff might bring enough negative energy to hurt them. And then the east has gotten a lot better. Boston had a good run at them last year and played well in the playoffs. Philadelphia looks like they're reloaded and better from what I've seen. And I think Milwaukee is always kind of, Milwaukee kind of reminds me a little bit of old San Antonio. They don't beat themselves. They're damn good, and they always got to be respected.
Randy: Coach, final question for you. You've had some health concerns over the last few years. From what I read, you're doing better. How is your health? How are you doing?
Coach Karl: I'm doing great. I mean, when COVID hit, I decided to get my body in shape, and I gave up drinking beer, and I'm down to my playing weight, and now I'm a storyteller, I'm a grandpa, and I love the game of basketball.
Randy: Well, that's good for you. That's what we all aspire to be at some point. And congratulations on a storied career. Thank you for your time. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you want to throw out there?
Coach Karl: No, I just hope the NBA will get back to Seattle is the one thing that's on my mind today. And I hope that expansion happens in the near future, and I think Seattle would love to have a team back, and I think that'd be great for the NBA.
Randy: Once again, Coach, thank you very much for your time. I certainly do appreciate it, and I wish you well.
Coach Karl: Okay, Randy, I appreciate you, say hello to Great Falls fans.
Coach Karl had an NBA coaching record of 1175-824 over 30+ years.
You can hear the entire interview here: