Carlesimo to return as Sonics coach

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- P.J. Carlesimo will return to coach the SuperSonics next season, the team's general manager said Thursday, ending speculation he might be fired after the worst season in Seattle history.

At an event introducing Kevin Durant as the NBA Rookie of the Year, GM Sam Presti declared what Carlesimo, who was standing about 15 feet away, did not yet know.

"Will he come back?" the youngest GM in the league was asked.

"Absolutely," the 31-year-old Presti said.

Minutes earlier, the 58-year-old Carlesimo was asked if he had received assurances he would be the Sonics' coach next season.

"It's not a question of assurances. You know, you [only] get told if you are not coaching," Carlesimo said, chuckling. "Sam and I have had great conversations."

Carlesimo made it clear he wanted to continue his first head coaching job in the NBA since 1999.

"I'm happy here," he said. "I love it here."

Two weeks ago, immediately after the Sonics' 20-62 season, Presti gave only a vague answer when asked if there would be any coaching staff changes -- Carlesimo included.

Almost daily meetings since then between the man who just finished his first season running an NBA team and Carlesimo apparently ensured the coach would return for an eighth season as a head coach in the league.

In the end, Presti decided against changing coaches for the second time in two offseasons. The team has enough turmoil already.

Last month, the league approved the franchise's move to Oklahoma City. Next month, Seattle's trial begins against its oldest professional sports team in an attempt to keep it in town.

"We've had tangible discussions. We're both committed to building the best basketball operation that we can," Presti said. "We're committed to going forward."

Last July, the Sonics hired Carlesimo as their 15th coach, his first NBA head coaching job since Golden State fired him in December 1999. Presti chose him over former Minnesota coach and Seattle assistant Dwane Casey. Presti was the assistant GM in San Antonio when Carlesimo was a Spurs assistant, through the 2006-07 season.

Days before hiring Carlesimo, Presti dismantled the veteran core of the Sonics by trading All-Star Ray Allen to Boston for the draft choice that brought fifth-overall pick Jeff Green to join Durant. Presti also allowed second-leading scorer Rashard Lewis to leave for Orlando as a free agent.

During training camp last fall, Carlesimo was realistic and blunt in declaring that the Sonics were in for a long season.

After a predictably poor start to the season, Presti traded veterans Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to Cleveland in a three-team deal with Chicago. Even with the heroics of Durant, who averaged 20.3 points per game, Seattle finished with a record better only than Miami (15-67). The Heat just changed coaches from Pat Riley to Erik Spoelstra.

"We knew certainly what we were getting into," Carlesimo said. "Everyone realized what the Western Conference was going to be like this year."

Carlesimo has yet to get his young team to play better defense. Seattle allowed 106.3 points per game this season, fourth most in the league and more than four points per game higher than the freewheeling Sonics allowed in 2006-07 under Bob Hill. Seattle has barely played any defense since Nate McMillan left for Portland after the 2004-05 season, the Sonics' last in the playoffs.

Carlesimo has a career record of 203-284 (.417) in the regular season with Portland, the Warriors and the Sonics. He is 3-9 in the postseason, where he hasn't been since 1997 with the Trail Blazers. He was the 1989 NCAA coach of the year at Seton Hall while leading the Pirates to the national championship game.