My biggest frustration with George Karl has been his attitude that he does not have to form relationships with, and motivate, certain players on his team. In the recent superb, revealing article on JR Smith (http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8396297/view/full/is-new-york-knicks-shooting-guard-jr-smith-misguided-just-misunderstood) Karl is quoted as saying there are 3-4 players he has to focus his time on during a season, and doesn’t have time for others. Don’t forget, he went a whole seasons without even talking to JR. Not a word. (This was assistant coach Tim Grgurich's job. )
To me, a head coach has to manage all 15 personalties on his team. That is his main job. Look at Doc Rivers – - you can tell he has a relationship with each player on his roster, 1-15, and works at it. Same for Phil Jackson. I am not saying an NBA coach has to coddle his players, but refusing to speak to a key player for a full season?? Particulary a young, dynamic personality like JR, is crazy and dysfunctional.
I will be first to say I like GK, and think there are few people alive who know and love the NBA game more than him. To me, his management of challenging personalties is the one piece that Karl has to improve in if he wants a NBA championship before he retires. Building loyalty from 1-15 is critical for a championship coach. It doesn’t just happen because you are the guy dolling out minutes. Or a guy who has been around a long time.I do believe there is a good chance GK has grown as a person since his cancer scare, and I believe this life changing experience with cancer will only enhance his ability to connect with his players. Let’s just hope players like McGee and Randolph, somewhat mercurial players in the past, don’t end up in a JR like doghouse. If they do, it will be another season of missed opportunity for Karl and the Nuggs.