Though he admits he had his hands around the neck of his coach, Latrell Sprewell insists he never choked P.J. Carlesimo and he does not need anger counseling before returning to the NBA.
In a transcript of an interview broadcast Sunday night on CBS' 60 Minutes, Sprewell said the marks on Carlesimo's neck were made by his nails and prove he wasn't choking the Golden State Warriors' coach.
"I wasn't choking P.J. I mean, P.J., he could breathe. It's not like he was losing air or anything like that. I mean, it wasn't a choke, I wasn't trying to kill P.J.," Sprewell said in his first public comments since an arbitrator reduced his punishment Wednesday.
"If you're choking someone, you don't get scratches. You get welts totally around your neck. It's not like I was going to sit there and kill the man. No, I would have stopped, definitely."
Warriors spokesman Eric McDowell said the team would not comment Sunday on Sprewell's remarks.
Sprewell attacked Carlesimo at practice Dec. 1. Two days later, the Warriors terminated the remaining three years on Sprewell's $32 million contract. The following day, the NBA suspended Sprewell for a year.
But arbitrator John Feerick ruled the dual penalties were too harsh. He reinstated the contract and reduced the suspension by five months, which means Sprewell will return to the Warriors July 1.
Sprewell will forfeit $6.4 million in salary for this season, but
the Warriors must pay the final two years and $17.3 million of his deal - unless they trade him and another team becomes responsible for the contract.
Sprewell's remarks on 60 Minutes echoed the testimony he gave before Feerick. Some of that testimony was included in the 106-page ruling issued by the arbitrator.
After the attack, Sprewell left the practice gym. He returned about 15 minutes later and was restrained by teammates. The former All-Star guard said he did not try to hit Carlesimo at that time.
Sprewell admitted he was upset and was screaming at Carleismo, but was stopped by teammates when he got within 4 to 5 feet of the coach.
"When that happened, I just started swinging my arms just to get free from those guys," Sprewell said. "This is where they say P.J. was punched or something. I know that I didn't intentionally go out there to hit P.J. I'm saying I didn't go out there and swing."
Sprewell said the confrontation with Carlesimo had been
brewing for some time, and that it stemmed from a lack of respect by the coach.
"It was all about the respect factor with me," Sprewell said. ``It was all about P.J. disrespecting me as a man. You don't talk to people the way that P.J. talked to me. To have my pride and my respect and my manhood means more than any dollar amount."
The arbitrator said Sprewell must undergo counseling before returning to the NBA, but Sprewell said the widespread debate stemming from the attack has provided all the counseling he needs.
"It's like I've been in counseling watching TV, you know," he said. ``I've been counseled so much."
Part of the 60 Minutes interview included a segment in which Sprewell meets with youngsters on a Los Angeles playground. One of them remarks that Sprewell beat his coach.
Sprewell, laughing, says, "No, I didn't."
Sprewell, who will have served an NBA-record 68-game suspension by the end of the season, said he has told his four children he made a mistake in attacking Carlesimo and that using physical force is not the solution.
And he also said it's wrong to assume the arbitrator's ruling means he got away with attacking his coach.
"I attacked him, but I don't know about getting away with it," he said, pointing to the money he lost and the games missed. "I mean, to me, that's not getting away with anything."
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
for more features.