Mike Malone Rumors
“I’m definitely motivated. No one ever wants to get fired. I don’t care what your job is. I don’t care if you’re working the graveyard shift at the junkyard,” Malone said. “But the way it turned out in Sacramento was kind of a blessing. You couldn’t have asked for a better script, the way their season turned out … it became a nightmare. By the end of it, I became John Wooden.”
Denver has a worse record than this time last season, but veteran point guard Jameer Nelson has told Malone that the overall vibe of the team is “night and day” from last season. “It’s funny because I told him in my eyes, I feel like the team is better,” Nelson said. “Even though we’re not winning like we want to win, the team is better. Some of the games we were involved in last year, we would’ve given up. We haven’t given up any games this year. We’ve fought to the very end.”
“Kids are so different today. You have to build them up,” said Malone, recalling a conversation he had with Gregg Popovich before taking over Sacramento. “Make sure they know that you love them, because if they don’t think you love them and you do that [get overly critical and negative], you lose them like that. I think that goes a long way. Some players may think, I am just an asset. I am just a position. I am just a stat. Whereas if you want to get the most out of them, you have to get to know them.”
Who has been your favorite player to coach? Mike Malone: I’ve really prided myself on the amount of good relationships I’ve had 15 years in the NBA as a head coach, as an assistant. Some guys that jump out like Chris Paul and I remain very close and the Clippers. I was only with him for a year but we just kind of clicked and hit it off because I think we shared the same passion for the game. DeMarcus Cousins is a guy that I coached in Sacramento. A lot of people tried to say, “no one can reach him, he’s uncoachable.” Me and DeMarcus are very close, we stay in touch. I even go back to Cleveland with LeBron for five years. Got close with him, [Zydrunas] Ilgauskas, and I go way back to New York, guys like Charlie Ward, guys like Allan Houston, Antonio McDyess. Again when you’re in the league for 15 years and you’re around so many different teams, you create bonds with so many players that you’re with, so I just named a few, but I’ve been blessed to really have great relationships with a lot of players and a lot of people that I still stay in touch with which I think is even better.
Who’s been one of the most trying, but also one who taught you a lot about coaching and how to handle players? Mike Malone: Probably the first reaction would be a guy like DeMarcus Cousins. I tried to go into Sacramento with a clean slate [with DeMarcus Cousins], because you hear this, you hear that. But what I found out was, as a coach, that didn’t happen on my watch. I’m going to give everyone an opportunity to show me who they are. And it wouldn’t have been fair to DeMarcus just to hold all that against him. But DeMarcus is a challenge just because he’s so competitive. What I realized is as a coach you can’t coach everybody the same way. This is not a democracy. You can’t coach everybody the same way and my job is to find out what makes guys click and how to get to that guy and bring out the best in him. What helped me with DeMarcus was I had to be true to myself per my father’s advice and DeMarcus and I were very similar, even though he’s a big, African American from the deep south and I’m a skinny white kid from New York City, inside of us we’re both competitive, we’re emotional, and we both hate to lose.
Mike Malone: LeBron is always clipping his nails. That first year, in timeouts he was always clipping his nails. Again, I grew up with my father – old school, eye contact – and so at first it was really pissing me off. So I called him on it – “Hey LeBron, what did we just say? What are we doing for pick-and-roll coverage?” And without even missing a beat, [he’d say], “We’re blitzing with the five, showing with the four, one and three are going to switch.” And he had everything. So after that I realized that his I.Q. is off the charts. He’s always paying attention, and he was locked in.