I know it's tacky to recycle a previously written column idea (maybe less so if you admit it at the outset), but it's time to revisit Adrian Dantley's place in Nuggets interim head coach history.
On February 25th two years ago, Nuggets assistant coach Adrian Dantley filled in for head coach George Karl who was out with the flu in a home game against the (then very good) Detroit Pistons. The Nuggets lost 98-93, which prompted me to write a column on other notable Nuggets interim head coaches...all of whom have been abject failures.
While no one would mistake Dantley for a coach doing a great job right now, he's the only interim head coach in Nuggets history to have won more games than lost, making him the best interim head coach in franchise history. Of course, if you read on below that's like saying you're the tallest midget.
(record: 10-7 in 2010, previously 2-1)
Compared to his interim head coach predecessors, Dantley has done an admirable job keeping the Nuggets afloat in the absence of George Karl who's receiving brutal chemotherapy treatment for throat and neck cancer and might return for the playoffs second round.
Going behind the record, Dantley's tenure on balance has been a disappointment. With the exception of a big win at Oklahoma City last week, the Nuggets haven't won a single game under Dantley that they weren't supposed to win in the first place (like at Phoenix, at Boston, at Orlando or at Dallas) while losing several winnable games along the way (like home against Milwaukee and San Antonio, and at New York). And beyond wins and losses, Dantley's rotations and game plans have been suspect and he hasn't inspired passionate play among his players.
(record: 1-2 in 2005)
Now in the running for NBA Coach of the Year for doing a tremendous job in Oklahoma City this season, Brooks once coached the Nuggets to a 1-2 opening record in the 2005-06. That prior offseason, Karl was suspended for the first three games after violating NBA Draft rules and Brooks took over. Brooks also served as an interim head coach in Oklahoma City last season, coaching the Thunder
to a 22-47 record after P.J. Carlesimo got fired. My point? Maybe Brooks is better at being a head coach than an interim head coach.
(record: 4-10 in 2004-05)
After Jeff Bzdelik got Stiffed 24 games into the 2004-05 season, "Coop" - a Kiki Vandeweghe
hire - took whatever he learned from coaching in the WNBA and applied it to the Nuggets...and after finishing 4-10 in 14 games, it's safe to say it didn't work. When George Karl arrived soon thereafter to rescue an almost lost Nuggets season, he didn't even keep Coop on the bench. After his embarrassing experience in Denver, Coop would return to coach in the WNBA again and is now coaching the USC Women's Trojans.
(record: 18-38 in 2001-02)
Evans was handed one of the more unenviable coaching opportunities in NBA history when he took over for Dan Issel who resigned after calling a fan a "Mexican piece of shit"...oh, and running the Nuggets franchise into the ground. After flaming out as a head coach in Denver, Evans was replaced by Bzdelik and resurfaced in Toronto as an assistant coach recently. Unfortunately for the always affable Evans, he was fired last off-season.
(record: 17-52 in 1996-97)
Did I just say that Evans was handed one of the more unenviable coaching opportunities in NBA history? It's one thing to take over after Dan Issel, but it's entirely different to have to take over for Bernie Bickerstaff
after Bickerstaff fire-bombed the entire Nuggets organization. For Motta it was a win-win. Not only did he get to be the head coach for 69 awful games, but he got to pad his all-time loss totals. Today, Motta ranks fourth all-time in games lost
as an NBA head coach and, according to his Wikipedia page, runs a bed and breakfast in Idaho. I'd probably be doing the same thing if I had to clean up Bernie's mess.
(record: 3-13 in 1994-95)
When your career NBA coaching record is 44-111 (.284) you're not long for the world as an NBA head coach. Littles guided the Nuggets to a 3-13 record as the designated seat filler between a quitting (the first time) Dan Issel and the incompetent Bickerstaff. (Three years later, Littles and the Nuggets would end up fighting over deferred compensation
and settling out of court.) When Bickerstaff took over, he was quoted
as saying: "I caution you that I am not the panacea as far as turning this around." No shit.