With no players, no training camp and, for now, no season, Golden State Warriors coach P.J. Carlesimo spent Tuesday reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin to schoolchildren.
This was supposed to be the first day of training camp. But with NBA players locked out, Carlesimo had an unexpected free day, which he spent with 140 youngsters ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade.
"It's the first time for me in 27 years the players haven't come back at this time of year," Carlesimo said. "It's a funny feeling."
On the same practice floor on which he was choked by Latrell Sprewell last December, Carlesimo read books on everything from Michael Jordan to Halloween to the youngsters from Oakland's Toler Heights Elementary School.
Carlesimo peppered his readings with lessons about life, telling the youngsters that "everybody messes up sometimes. You can't be afraid to miss. You can't be afraid to fall down."
General manager Garry St. Jean spoke to the kids about teamwork. Assistant coach Rod Higgins helped lead a session on arts and crafts based around the Warriors' logo. Assistant coach Paul Westhead, a former English professor, read poems.
"Obviously, we'd like to be starting practice today, but we can't think of a better way of spending the day than being with the youth of Oakland," St. Jean said. "Of course, they don't have any idea of who we are."
The youngsters applauded loudest when St. Jean mentioned Warriors point guard Muggsy Bogues, who spent the day talking about the NBA lockout at the Charlotte Hornets' training center in Fort Mill, S.C. Bogues lives in Charlotte.
"I'm just sad to see it come to this point," Bogues said.
The lockout turned into a bonus for the youngsters, who got pizza and cookies for lunch.
"To have Mr. Carlesimo read to them and knowing he is one of the top people with the Warriors is very important," principal Jane Couch said. "It's good for them to see people who aren't normally in a school play the role of teacher for the day."
Carlesimo, who had not faced so many youngsters at once since running a basketball camp while coaching Seton Hall, enjoyed his cameo role as a storyteller.
"This is a little easier than what the teachers have to do," he said. "They have to do it every day."
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