Something PJ Carlesimo Got Right When Coaching Kevin Durant

It didn't necessarily require hindsight to question whether former Seattle Sonics coach PJ Carlesimo was the right guy to coach up then-rookie Kevin Durant to the star status he has attained now.

However, as painful as it is to be left with those final memories of the Carlesimo-led Sonics, the last head coach who called KeyArena home might have gotten one thing - the most obvious thing - right. 

During an interview with the Loose Cannons on Fox Sports Radio today, co-host Steve Hartman reflected with Durant on something Carlesimo told him in an interview during that last year in Seattle.

"Kevin, I remember an interview I did with PJ Carlesimo, your coach in Seattle when you first broke in and I'll never forget this. You're coming in as a rookie, you're making an impression, and he says, 'I'm gonna tell you right now, I wouldn't trade this kid for anyone in the league.' And we were like, 'WHAT? Kobe? LeBron? You wouldn't trade this kid?' 'I'm telling you right now I wouldn't trade him for any other player in the league.'

"Now here you are - your name is there. They mention you with the Kobes and LeBron talking about NBA MVP. Were you as confident as obviously Carlesimo was that you had the game to be mentioned with the absolute best in the NBA?"

If there was one bright spot in that final year in Seattle, it was undeniably Durant and the star potential from his play on the court. Everybody from the folks working the concession stands to the head coach knew that.

But as Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus described back in 2008, Carlesimo just never figured out how to get the most out of Durant leading the young star to stagnate to some extent in his second year. The bottom line is that recognizing you have talent and knowing how to maximize it are just two different things.

In the movie SonicsGate, writer Sherman Alexie described that how one of the things that made the process of the Sonics' relocation is letting go of a player like Ray Allen, who "through his own passion, through his own poetry became the very best in human history at one thing." Not to disagree with Alexie on Allen - easily among my favorite NBA players to watch for his shot and moving as well off the ball as Rip Hamilton or Reggie Miller but doing more efficiently and smoothly - but Seattle also let go of the opportunity to watch a player like Durant blossom before their eyes when everyone could tell that he would. 

If watching him on the court now is like bearing witness to something happening as described by Bethlehem Shoals in the Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History, watching him then brought the satisfaction of knowing that you would have a first-hand account of where that all began.

And as Alexie said, we let that go.

Durant's answer to the question posed by Hartman can be found on SportsRadioInterviews.com and as we probably all expect by now it included a humble statement of his standard hard work narrative.

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