Caught up with PJ Carlesimo briefly at All-Star weekend
Time has served his tenure with the Nets well, even if he hasn't been able to land another coaching gig. The 65-year-old, who two years ago was dumped by Brooklyn after just five months as head coach, can claim the highest winning percentage in team history (.648). It's not even close.
Still working as a TV and radio analyst for ESPN, Carlesimo returned to Barclays Center for All-Star weekend and told the Daily News he harbors no ill-will toward the franchise that cut his opportunity very short.
"When you win there and you like the players, it's wrong if you get away and you start rooting against the guys who won for you," he said.
In the eyes of the Russian ownership, Carlesimo was always just an interim, a Band Aid following the firing of Avery Johnson. The team's first-round ouster in 2013 was more than enough evidence to move in another direction, ultimately toward Jason Kidd and a much messier divorce.
Carlesimo finished with a 35-19 record in the first season in Brooklyn, earning the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference before falling in seven games to the Bulls. His tenure represents the only sustained stretch of harmonious basketball from Brooklyn's Big 3 (contracts) - Brook Lopez, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson.
But Carlesimo was also criticized for his reliance on Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans, rather than giving more playing time to younger players like Mirza Teletovic and MarShon Brooks. GM Billy King said the Nets weren't tough enough under Carlesimo, lacking an identity.
Since Carlesimo's departure, the Nets have gone 65-69 with the highest payroll in the NBA .
"People always want to find things that Reggie Evans can't do and Gerald Wallace can't do, but they played hard," Carlesimo said. "They helped us. ...We had some guys that people didn't appreciate as much. But the difference was the key guys - Brook, Deron and Joe were healthy and playing great."
Carlesimo coached three teams to a 239-315 record, failing in three attempts to advance in the playoffs.
"I would love to coach again but I don't know if it's going to happen," he said. "I had really hoped that year was going to get me back in the mix a little bit. We'll see. It remains to be seen. You never know in our league."