Check out Nate (me) on with Brady Hull of KFKA's Agfinity Sports Day out of Greeley, CO. We tackle George Karl and what the Nuggets and Karl will do moving forward. Click here (interview starts about the 3:00 mark).
It seems like just yesterday, on May 8th, that George Karl was named coach of the year for his 57-win effort in the regular season for the Denver Nuggets. And it felt like just the day before that the Nuggets again suffered playoff disappointment at the hands of the Golden State Warriors. Now Karl is out as Nuggets coach.
This is sort of odd considering Karl was at both predraft camp workouts and he even had Coby Karl with him at the June 4th workout. He looked engaged and was out there working with the players on June 3rd in the limited action I was able to witness.
From Josh Kroenke on Nuggets.com:
"George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference," Kroenke said. "He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach."
We've seen basically the gamut ran here on Denver Stiffs with Karl through the years. He has presided over the Carmelo Anthony young era, the Allen Iverson / Melo teams, the Chauncey Billups / Melo combo, the Melodrama, and the post-Melo re-tooling.
You cannot convince me that another team was playing better than the Denver Nuggets on March 19th when the squad went into Oklahoma City on the second of a back-to-back and took it to the Thunder. I was sure that I was witnessing the best Nuggets team I had ever laid eyes on. The build-in excuse seemed obvious when Danilo Gallinari went down with his gruesome knee injury at the Pepsi Center.
Josh Kroenke has apparently seen things differently. This is a bold move for Josh and one that will be met with acceptance from a large number of people in Nuggets Nation. It was a bold move to bring Karl to Denver and it was a major step in the right direction for a franchise that wanted to let the NBA world know they were serious about basketball in this dusty old cow town (a nod to Jim Armstrong there).
What does not bringing back Karl say?
Some would argue that this move signifies more chaos and more uncertainty from the Nuggets. But this is not what this move is about. This move is Josh Kroenke knowing that he wants to take this franchise in a different direction. The reasons behind it? That we can't be sure about.
JaVale McGee was signed to a 4-year, $44 million contract before the 2012-13 season and he only saw 18 minutes per game and was not the starting center for this team. Should he have been? No, Karl did the right thing in making McGee earn his spot on the team, but Karl also didn't recognize when McGee was ready to break out. When Karl turned to McGee in the post-season it gave the team a spark, but it might have been too late.
Karl had a chance to say McGee was going to be his starter for the 2013-14 season, but he again said the team would take a wait-and-see approach. The McGee thing had to have something to do with this, but then again we could see McGee traded sometime this off-season and it would not surprise me - since it was perhaps Masai Ujiri who believed in McGee's abilities ... I am just speculating.
The playoff record that the Nuggets had under Karl had a lot to do with him not coming back to this team. Whether it was Ujiri or Josh talking about wanting to succeed as a franchise here - they could not keep accepting post-season failure.
Yes, winning in the playoffs is difficult, especially as the underdog, but having just one season in which the Nuggets advanced had to play a role in Josh wanting to go in a different direction.
Perhaps the biggest thing in all of this is the uncertainty of Karl's next contract. Karl certainly wanted some job security, but the Nuggets were not in a position to offer it as they had to come to the conclusion that a wait-and-see approach about an extension was the right course of action. But like my colleague, Jeff Morton said on our Colorado Sports Guys podcast last night - the Nuggets needed to deal with Karl's looming free agent status now. The team could not afford to go into a season and have this be a distraction. Just like we talked about with Ty Lawson's contract status before he inked his extension before the season.
If the Nuggets were wanting to take a wait-and-see approach with Karl that would have meant there was already a seed of doubt and the time to strike on moving on was now. Karl can do what is best for him and Josh can find a new voice for the team.
This is a sad loss for Nuggets Nation as Karl is a wonderful man. He's the best to talk hoops with and he would go out of his way to interact with fans. We are losing a special coach and these things rarely end pretty. Not everyone can go out like John Elway - retiring as a hero after winning two Super Bowls. That is the fairy tale.
Karl can land on his feet if he so chooses. He was absolutely brilliant when he was with ESPN and he could easily get a gig as a studio guy once again.
One thing is for sure. It will be weird to see Karl anywhere else and it will be weird to not see him on Denver's bench as he has been there since 2005.
The Nuggets will now move in a new direction. Don't be afraid of change Nuggets fans.
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