George Karl knew the achievement was worth all the attention. He just didn’t like the focus all being on him.
Now he doesn’t have to worry.
Karl got his version of the football gatorade shower — in the NBA it’s a water bottle poured over one’s head — after his team delivered him win No. 1,000 of his career. He becomes the seventh coach in the history of the game to reach that nice round number.
The shower, delivered by Al Harrington, preceded a slew of congratulations from just about anyone in the Air Canada Centre who could get close enough to deliver the message.
Perhaps the most fitting tribute came from his veteran point guard Chauncey Billups.
“Unbelievable,” Billups said. “He has 1,000 wins and he beat cancer twice. I think those (two) are his biggest wins. Not very many people can say they beat cancer twice. He is a special, special guy to make it through all of that.”
Frankly, Karl had become a little tired of talking about the chase for 1,000 wins.
“For me, I don’t like the spotlight on me,” Karl said before the game. “I like it to be on my team. I think there’s a justification for it, but I think it has been way too long and let’s get it over with and move on to playing NBA basketball.”
Win No. 1,000 got a whole lot tougher about 90 minutes before game time when the Nuggets announced Carmelo Anthony would sit out his second consecutive game with tendonitis in his right knee, although the report said Anthony was improving.
Karl, typical of his style, looked no more concerned with that prospect than had he been told Michael Jordan in his prime was joining the Raptors roster for the night.
“It’s the same script,” Karl said referring to the first game without Anthony. “We don’t know exactly how we’re going to win, but I think the guys in there think we’re going to figure it out.”
Raptors head coach Jay Triano said Karl elicits instant respect both on and off the court.
“I am impressed not just with the number of wins, but the way he has bounced back and remained as humble and good a coach as he is after what he has gone through the last little while,” Triano said. “Guys like that I respect and admire not just because of what they do as basketball coaches but because of who they are as people and the way he has been able to fight through and be courageous through a very difficult time.”