I was kicking it in the Caribbean when the infamous P.J. Carlesimo, Latrell Sprewell choke-gate controversy went down 15 years ago. It obviously left a lasting impact on the NBA and I say that because I’ve heard about it so many times that I feel like I was there.
And why wouldn’t it? It’s not every day that a player assaults his coach, and for no apparent reason except that he was frustrated with losing. Sprewell, has never addressed the situation thoroughly and given an account for why he did what he did, and his victim, the allegedly combative Carlesimo, is just as clueless as us to what caused the attack.
In a interview with the Yes Network courtesy of Nets Daily, the Brooklyn Nets coach, rehashes what he remembers of the situation.
On his 1997 choking incident with Latrell Sprewell while coaching Golden State Warriors:
We just were in the middle of a practice, and we were doing a drill, and, (I) asked Spre to put more zip in a pass…
(On if he had a good relationship with Sprewell up to that point)
I wouldn’t say it was a great relationship, but I wouldn’t have said it was bad.
(His first reaction when Sprewell choked him)
More surprise, not shock. Again, I mean, there were so many people around. It was, you know, it’s a practice, and things happen at practice, but no, there was nothing that led up to it. So it was more surprise.(On of if he ever felt in danger) No. It wasn’t a situation like that.
(Was he surprised that Sprewell returned to practice 20 minutes after the incident)
On what went wrong between him and Sprewell, and if it still bothers him today:
No, to this day, I don’t (know what precipitated it), I’m not sure exactly what it was, but…something set him off, and, just, that’s the way he reacted, and the rest is history. I think people who don’t know basketball, that’s the only thing they know. Like if someone says Spre’s name or someone says my name…they say, “Oh, that, those two guys, I know that.” From here (New York area), if you say my name, they’ll probably relate it to Seton Hall. If you say it on the West Coast, people relate it to Golden State or to Portland.
Did the incident have any racial undertones?
No, no, no. People are always gonna, you know, look at it and say, “Well, it’s a black player, it’s a white coach.” No. I don’t think so. A lot of the players and coaches in the league (NBA), (who) immediately, you know, stood up and said, “Whoa, wait a minute.” Let’s not bring something into this that’s not in it.” That never had any legs.
Did he and Sprewell patch things up?
No, not really.
(If they ever spoke about the incident)
Not really. You know, “Hello”, before a game, after a game, something like that. But first time we were together again was my first game I did for NBC when I was doing broadcasting with another Fordham buddy of your(s), Mike Breen. The first game we did, Christmas Day (2001). It was Madison Square Garden and Spre came over, I think, to do a post-game radio (interview) with Clyde or something like that, but that was the first time we had been face to face since the…since the hearing. Again, it was, you know, hello, somewhat… It was cordial.
(If Sprewell ever apologized)
Not a problem. No.
(Did he expect him to?)
Unfortunately, when Sprewell’s name arises in random conversation two things come to mind; the choking incident in Golden State and the fact that he turned down a $21-million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves because it wouldn’t be enough to feed his children.
That one incident has left an indelible stain on the admirable careers of both men.