My guest today is Coby Karl, head coach for the South Bay Lakers of the NBA G League. He played professionally in the NBA for multiple teams, including for Phil Jackson and the Lakers, and overseas. In this episode, we discuss what it...
My guest today is Coby Karl, head coach for the South Bay Lakers of the NBA G League. He played professionally in the NBA for multiple teams, including for Phil Jackson and the Lakers, and overseas.
In this episode, we discuss what it was like to grow up the son of former NBA Head Coach George Karl and the lessons he learned being around the game at a young age. Then we dive into his transition from a player to a coach with the Knicks G-League team and now the Lakers G-League team. He touches on his coaching philosophy, favoring simplicity versus complexity, and how he’s tried to give his players space to grow. We talk about his eagerness to learn and lessons he’s taken from people like Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Ryan Holiday.
Coby is going to be releasing his own podcast soon called The Curious Leader, which will kick off with guests like Phil Jackson and Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), so be sure to go subscribe to listen to those episodes when they release in early February.
(1:43) - Episode begins with growing up the son of a coach and being a ball boy for the Seattle Sonics
(5:00) - How he handles the stress of the job
(7:15) - The benefits of coaching in the NBA G-League
(8:55) - What made him want to pursue coaching as a profession after his playing career
(11:05) - The transition from player to coach
(16:20) - Why he tries to keep things simple for his players
(21:30) - What he focuses on to develop guys like Alex Caruso, Thomas Bryant, etc.
(24:40) - What led him to start a podcast (The Curious Leader)
(27:50) - How time playing for and spent with Phil Jackson made him introspective
(29:18) - Must listen story about him sneaking into the Chicago Bulls locker room to watch Michael Jordan during the NBA Finals when he was a ball boy for the Seattle Sonics
(30:35) - Best memorabilia he has from his playing career and being a ball boy
(33:05) - Coaching lessons taken from Phil Jackson
(40:50) - What made him so curious to reach out to connect with people like Ryan Holiday
(43:20) - Lessons learned from playing with Kobe Bryant and spending time with him after they both retired
(48:50) - Why he wants to focus on holding players accountable
(52:50) - What he would tell himself if he could go back to his first day of coaching
(54:20) - Having to handle his 2020 season cut short and the 2021 season not happening
(58:45) - End of episode questions
1. What’s 1 book every coach should read?
2. Who is one person you’d want to hear as a guest on this podcast?
3. What’s one area you’re looking to improve in over the next year?
Clarity and the ability to communicate that clarity to players
4. What’s popular advice you hear people say that you think is wrong?
5. What advice do you have for young coaches who are listening to this?
Be a head coach at whatever level you can be
6. What’s the darkest moment you experienced professionally and how did you overcome it?
Two moments: The first was getting cut by the Lakers the day before his second season with the team. The second was a losing streak for an entire month during the G-League season last year. He overcame it by continually showing up and leaning on his staff.
“I don't know if I ever told this story, but I was a ball boy in the (NBA) Finals during that time and I was a ball boy in the home locker room, which they have different sets. So you don't like … go in the visitors locker room unless you're invited. And I snuck in and I was sitting there, like, just trying to like act like no one knew who I was…and like literally I was just staring at Mike (Michael Jordan). And like Michael had like this unbelievable focus, right? It was like I wasn't even there. It's like he was in his own space, and you know, the more I've learned on the mental side of it is like he did, he was in his own space. He was in his comfortable zone and he wasn't focused on, like, I couldn't get him out of that. And I think that goes too high performance, ability to maintain focus, and to coach Jackson's ability to train that.”
“The one thing that I provide for them (his players) is simplicity so they can figure out who they are within a team structure.”
“I've been on that pursuit for my whole life, like how do I become a better human, you know, and that was why I reached out to Ryan Holiday because his stuff with stoicism, The Daily Stoic, The Daily Dad, have really impacted my life.”
“You know, I think as a teammate, I noticed immediately he was vicious, just absolutely vicious. And that's who he was, that's how he lived, it was 100% focus. I think watching The Muse that he came out with, you can see there's just this, almost like an animal, animalistic drive to just compete, get better, find a way. Like, you go read his book, which I've read…he talks about studying animals and studying the black mamba. I think for me when I was younger, I was like this is ridiculous…but as I've gotten older, I’m like wow, this stuff does apply there. There's a lot of, I mean, we are animals at the core.”
“Once you can trust me, or I can trust you to hold you accountable at a really, really difficult, uncomfortable level, then then we can start growing together. We can start being more than the sum of our parts.”