Mike Malone Rumors
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.
It’s part of the reason he shortened practice Saturday. “I have the propensity to push, push, push, push,” Malone said. “And after the game last night, I’m always going to look at myself in the mirror — hey, maybe we pushed too hard for too long. … So, today, we went hard, but we went short. So maybe I have to scale back a little bit, because we are banged up, we have guys who are playing fairly heavy minutes. So, I have to maybe be a little bit more judicious in how we practice.”
Saunders told Malone he called because he had been fired three times – in Minnesota, Detroit and Washington, from every NBA coaching job he ever had – and told him something about the experiences. “You hear from everybody a day or two after you’ve been fired and two weeks later, no one is calling you,” Malone said. “Life goes on after you’re fired. I don’t want a pity party, I don’t want people calling me every day anyway. But Flip called…”