After losing the NBA’s executive of the year in Masai Ujiri to the Toronto Raptors, less then a week later the Nuggets now have also lost the NBA’s coach of the year. The team announced their decision to part ways with coach George Karl earlier today, ending his eight and a half year run with the organization. The move comes as somewhat of a surprise, as the Nuggets were coming off a 57 win season, the most regular seasons win’s in the franchises NBA history. Karl was in the final year of his contract and was reported to be feeling “unsettled” after the departure of Ujiri about his future with the franchise. The Nuggets also didn’t want to give Karl the contract extension he was seeking, according to multiple reports and didn’t want to deal with having a unhappy coach for next season.
As a Nuggets fan, I will always have profound respect and gratitude for George Karl and what he did for the city of Denver and helping resurrect basketball here. Karl compiled a regular season record of 423-257 during his tenure in Denver, while also leading the Nuggets to nine straight playoff appearances, five 50+ win seasons, three northwest division titles and a 2009 Western Conference finals appearance. However, Denver was eliminated eight out of nine times in the first round and had a 21-38 record under Karl in the playoffs during his tenure. I will always appreciate what Karl did for this team and city, he was my generation’s Doug Moe and even though I think this is the right move for Denver, it will be weird not seeing George Karl on the sidelines leading this team next season.
Some of the reasons for the Nuggets and Josh Kroenke’s decision to fire Karl, include Karl’s reluctance to play center JaVale McGee more and start him over Kosta Koufos. McGee signed a contract extension worth $44 million last summer and management was unhappy with Karl’s handling of McGee, according to reports. Also Karl’s decision to constantly play guard Andre Miller, even if he was struggling over guard Evan Fournier apparently was another thing that management wasn’t too high on or happy with. Management wanted Fournier to get more minutes, during the regular season to help further his development. There is also multiple reports saying that the Nuggets front office, blamed Karl primarily for the 4-2 series loss in the first round to the Golden State Warriors this year and was unhappy with some of the line-up/rotational decisions he made.
The Nuggets will reportedly target Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw for their head coaching vacancy now, according to multiple media reports. Hollins is coming off a 56 win season with Memphis, while also helping lead the Grizzlies to their first Western Conference finals appearance this postseason. As for Shaw, he has been a hot commodity in coaching circles for sometime now and has also reportedly drawn interest from both the Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets for their head coaching openings. Either coach would be a great choice for Denver and a very suitable replacement for George Karl. I think ultimately the Nuggets made the right decision and Nuggets fans shouldn’t fear change in this case. Karl won a lot of games here in Denver but, bottom line the Nuggets got complacent and settled for mediocrity under the great coach. In any other sport or with any other team, if a coach lost in the first round eight of nine times, they would’ve been fired ASAP. Karl’s a legend and will always be considered one of the best coaches in the history of basketball but, it was time for a change. Karl will be fine, the Clippers and Grizzlies are already reportedly looking to talk to him about their coaching vacancies. Only time will tell, in who will be the next head coach of the Denver Nuggets but, one thing is for certain…a new era has begun once again in Denver.