It raised some eyebrows last year when Rick Carlisle said he thought Metta World Peace has “a chance to be a good coach.” That Carlisle (head coach of the Dallas Mavericks, president of the NBA coaches’ union, one of the deans of the profession) would look at World Peace (who bristled under Carlisle’s coaching while both were with the Indiana Pacers, and who’s better known by the public for chaos than order) and think “future coach” seemed surprising.
But the man formerly known as Ron Artest (and, briefly, The Panda’s Friend) always had more on-court smarts than many gave him credit for, especially on the defensive end, and had shown some interest in moving from the bench to the coach’s box once he was done playing. Stranger things have happened … including more than a few featuring MWP himself.
After making 25 appearances last season for the Los Angeles Lakers, World Peace wasn’t quite ready to consider hanging up his hightops and putting on a suit. Six months later, though, he seems to have warmed up to the idea, agreeing to join the South Bay Lakers — L.A.’s G League affiliate — as a player development coach on the staff of South Bay head coach Coby Karl, who promises to be the second-most domineering guy he’s ever worked with whose first name sounds like that.
World Peace is the latest in a growing line of former NBA players to hit the former D-League in pursuit of a top-flight coaching career. Fellow former All-Star Jerry Stackhouse went from a job as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors to the head coaching gig with Raptors 905 last summer, winning the D-League championship and coach of the year honors.
While the Associated Press notes that World Peace hasn’t publicly retired, the new gig looks like it marks the end of an 18-year pro playing career — 17 years in the NBA, plus that one year split between China and Italy — that might not have reached the peak of its potential, but that did include an All-Star berth, 2003-04 Defensive Player of the Year honors, four All-Defensive nods, an All-NBA Third Team selection, the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and, of course, a 2010 NBA championship with the Lakers. On the flip side, though, it also means Metta taking advantage of the opportunity to draw a paycheck for doing something that he says he’d be doing anyway, as he told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon last year:
What makes you think coaching is a career path that would be a good fit for you?
MWP: When you get a chance to be around something that you’re going to watch on TV anyway, I mean, that’s just a great opportunity. I’m going to watch basketball regardless of whether I coach or watch it on TV. Same thing with boxing and same thing with football. When you get a chance to be up and close to it, when you get a chance to contribute, that’s just what’s really fun about it.
Lest we get it twisted, Ron-Ron announced his new gig by reminding us that fun is really what he’s still all about …
— Metta World Peace (@MettaWorldPeace) October 24, 2017
… which is good, because as he neared the end of a career full of promise, racked by rancor and instability, and ultimately redeemed through the love of the grind and the more delightful and irrepressible elements of his personality, Metta World Peace offered a pure and simple distillation of what kept him going, and why we kept going with him.
And if you doubted that, he’s about to spend his days in El Segundo trying to help fringe prospects make their way to the show. It might seem like kind of a weird fit, but then, given the dude we’re talking about, that makes it kind of perfect, doesn’t it?
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