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"Yeah. What she'll have to be is [pause] a real beautiful [pause], real intelligent [long pause] bitch. Now, wait a minute: I mean that as a compliment. Because she's going to have to be so independent to put up with me—and do things for herself. Because I'm just too set. I mean, for 30 years I've been selfish. I like being alone. In fact, I can't think unless I'm alone."
Nevertheless, the fancy empty apartment does not qualify as a venue for cogitation. Carlesimo needs to be in the Warriors' offices for rumination as well as fellowship. Of course, every NBA office during the long lockout was a bit like The Truman Show, with everyone acting, pretending to have a job to do. Still, even when there are games to play, Carlesimo roams the halls, teasing, kibitzing, high-fiving, banging fists. This, really, is his home. He knows all the dozens of people who are here. Many he has endowed with nicknames. There's Boo, Fuji, Tommy Loco, Mundo, the Legend. Most everybody else he addresses in the diminutive. Hey, Higgy's over there. Say hello to Simmy. Even Larry Bird is referred to as Birdy.
"It's almost like he's running for office, but he's not," says Boeheim. "P.J.'s just that way, naturally. He treats everyone like they're his best friend."
When Carlesimo first went to Portland, some people in the Trail Blazers' office were suspicious of this great affability. The big-shot head coach, hanging out with the hired help? He was much too nice and accessible. "Hi, I'm P.J." is how he introduces himself to everybody, bartenders and waiters and caddies. And the rare Warriors fan.
Carlesimo grows especially close to his assistants. He has set up a football-style departmentalization, with Westhead in charge of the offense, Higgins the defense and Bob Staak the preparation for the next opponent. "I delegate good, but not great," Carlesimo says. "I mean, nothing like [Rick] Pitino. My problem is, I just like tinkering. And, in the pros, if you're obsessed, you can work pretty much every day from Labor Day to May."
Says Visser, "I sort of knew it wasn't going to work for us when, one time, we flew back together from the Final Four and P.J. spent the whole trip reading Dick Versace's book on the 1-3-1."
But then, that's virtually all Carlesimo reads now: hoops dissertations. The classicist who took several years of both Greek and Latin has slowly whittled away his outside interests. "I don't even read newspapers anymore," he volunteers somewhat wistfully. Occasionally Carlesimo even descends into jock grammar, saying "she don't" or "he played good" as, somewhere, a Jesuit scholastic crosses himself in sorrowful prayer.
The West Coast time zone is a bonus. It allows Carlesimo to start watching college games on ESPN in the late afternoon. Then, when everybody else in the office has gone home to his family but before Carlesimo congregates a group for his evening repast, he does his best thinking. "I like working around the office," he says. "I love working weekends and late at night. Sure, I could do it at home, but I'd rather come into the office. Then I need dead silence—nobody around—to get anything done."
Obviously Carlesimo has chosen this lonely-in-the-crowd life, and anyway, he's found fame and fortune in the bargain. Still, there is a certain perversity to the way he approaches his vocation. Except for the Trail Blazers, who were hardly a juggernaut, each team Carlesimo has taken over has been in desperate straits. After four years as an assistant at Ford-ham he literally found his first head job, at New Hampshire College, through an ad in The New York Times. Next came Wagner, in New York City, the height of hubris—a loser in Division II seeking a coach to jump it to Division I. Carlesimo succeeded, and then he went to Big East doormat Seton Hall. Finally, after being fired by the Trail Blazers despite going 137-109 and making the playoffs all three years, he chose woeful Golden State.
"I'm not afraid to lose," Carlesimo says.