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Sea change

Carlesimo is on the upswing. Sprewell? Not so much

Posted: Wednesday August 22, 2007 2:56PM; Updated: Wednesday August 22, 2007 3:00PM
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P.J. Carlesimo is getting another shot as an NBA head coach eight years after being fired by the Warriors.
P.J. Carlesimo is getting another shot as an NBA head coach eight years after being fired by the Warriors.
AP

Every now and then, the universe corrects itself and makes sure that justice is served, that people get what they deserve. Don't believe it? Then consider the way that karma has finally caught up with P.J. Carlesimo and Latrell Sprewell.

If you hadn't noticed, the fates of the two men, forever linked in our memories by the choking incident in 1997, have flipped recently. Carlesimo, once the hard-luck victim of the tale, recently landed one of the more desirable coaching jobs in the NBA, with Seattle and hotshot rookie Kevin Durant. Sprewell, the bad-boy anti-hero who went on to even greater fame and fortune after throttling Carlesimo, has apparently mismanaged some of that wealth.

Three years after rejecting a $21 million contract offer, calling it insulting and saying he had "a family to feed," Sprewell is out of basketball -- and out of a yacht. His 70-foot, $1.5 million Italian vessel was repossessed on Tuesday after Spree failed to keep up his payments of more than $10,000 a month.

Losing the yacht doesn't necessarily mean that Sprewell has fallen on financial hard times, of course, but given his impulsive nature, it wouldn't be a shock if he had frittered away his fortune, a stash that would have been even bigger if he hadn't turned up his nose at that $21 million from Minnesota. Sprewell thought he could do better, but he apparently overestimated his own value, since he never earned another dime in the NBA. It's hard not to smile at the notion of someone who thought he was a money-making machine having one of his luxury toys taken away for lack of payment.

Combined with Carlesimo's recent return to head coaching, Sprewell's misfortune seems to be an indication of a little cosmic payback. You no doubt remember the day 10 years ago that Carlesimo and Sprewell made each other famous. Carlesimo was the demanding coach of the Warriors and Sprewell was his headstrong star. One day at practice Carlesimo demanded a little too much, in Sprewell's opinion, and the player wrapped his hands around the coach's neck, making Spree perhaps the first literal choker in sports history.

Sprewell was suspended without pay for 68 games, but ultimately it seemed as though he had the last laugh. He was traded to the Knicks, whom he helped lead to the Finals, and then to the Timberwolves, making millions in both places. Carlesimo, meanwhile, never escaped the stigma of being the coach who drove his player to violence and was fired by the Warriors two years after the incident.

But after a decade, the scales are evening out, at last. After five years as an assistant with San Antonio, where he earned three championship rings and had the pleasure of working with forward Tim Duncan, Sprewell's polar opposite, Carlesimo finally landed another head-coaching job this offseason, and a plum one at that -- taking over in Seattle, where he gets to tutor Durant, the Sonics' probable superstar-in-the-making.

The Sonics also traded away Ray Allen over the summer, leaving an opening for an experienced shooting guard, and Sprewell, coincidentally, fits that description. Unfortunately for Spree, Carlesimo probably wouldn't let Durant get anywhere near Sprewell and his toxic attitude, even if the rookie were wearing a hazmat suit. But it would be admirable of Carlesimo to find a job for his ex-attacker somewhere in the organization -- maybe, in what would be a deliciously ironic twist, as his bodyguard. Don't assume that Sprewell would turn down the offer. After all, he does have to feed his family.

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