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George Karl unloads on Denver for firing him

Jun 14, 2013, 8:00 AM EDT

George Karl AP

Denver won 57 games, were the three seed in the West, and go into next season with one of the most promising young rosters in the league. Things are looking up. Because he’d helped construct a balanced, attacking, up-tempo system and team out of the parts that came back in the Carmelo Anthony trade, George Karl was named the NBA Coach of the Year for 2013.

Twenty-nine days later he was fired.

Karl unloaded on Denver management for the move in an interview with the Denver Post.

On his conversation with team president Josh Kroenke upon being fired: “Josh was nice and complimentary, said he’d honor my contract and the coaches. The conversation was on the decision, and I said, ‘I think I should tell you, I think it’s very stupid.’ And since then, I don’t understand it….

“I think it was a special season because of the connection this team has with each other and with the coaching staff and with the city. The fans like this team. The staff likes each other. And to blow up that connection is, in my opinion, extremely disrespectful to coaching.”

The difference in philosophy was around Karl wanting to win games and Kroenke and management wanting to see more of the team’s young players on the court for development reasons. Even if that meant a loss or two.

At the heart of all of that was JaVale McGee — he signed a four-year, $44 million contract last summer but Karl didn’t think he was ready and started Kosta Koufos. McGee can be brilliant one possession, then play confused 15 year-old the next. But management invested big in him and  wants him developed. Coaches on the other hand don’t trust inconsistency.

“We won 57 wins and are in a great place. Continuity, consistency, togetherness all are so much more valuable than they have on their priority list than playing JaVale McGee or the young players….

“And I never had a meeting where that disappointment (about the rotations), in that part of it, was voiced to me. I never had that meeting. I heard through whispers. I’m sorry that 57 wins doesn’t make you happy.”

Well then, how do you really feel?

Karl is interviewing with Memphis next Monday. The Nuggets are reportedly targeting Brian Shaw and Lionel Hollins.

  1. logisticalvoices - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    George Karl is 100% right. The Nuggets did him wrong and he is right not to pull punches. He didn’t say anything disrespectful, he was just pointed and honest with his answers. I hope he lands with a team that is more appreciative of what he has to offer.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Sour grapes by Karl. He had 9 years of refusing to develop players.
      Only ready-made veterans (miller, Iguodala, afflalo, billups, etc.) got meaningful playing time.
      Karl even played Anthony carter over Ty Lawson early on.

      Bottom line Karl: great coach with no postseason success. Management wants championships not coach of the year trophies.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      Karl is a whiner, all he does is pass the blame along just like he blamed Melo for not getting
      out the second round and Melo did that for the Knicks because he shook Karl off his back and
      has been all we wanted. Also, Karl took cheap shots at Melo when he left and Melo said when
      told of Karls criticism ” I will talk to coach about that stuff” because he couldn’t believe Karl
      would take shots at him after he rode Melos cape for all those years.

      Karl doesn’t know what goes around comes all the way back around.

    • daddyghi - Jun 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      screw the Nuggets… the Clippers and the Grizzlies both has coaching gig… has better roster and a better chance of getting in to the finals next year…

  2. henryd3rd - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:33 AM

    Both Denver and Memphis will regret terminating their coaches in months to come. Good coaches are hard to come by and good free agents want to play with winners and rarely want to be associated with rebuilding. These coaching changes were just plain stupid; but Karl and Hollins will land on their feet.

    If I’m Brian Shaw I would avoid these teams

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      Karl got the team he’d always wanted in Denver last year (his words) and then proceeded to get outcoached by rookie coach mark Jackson. Prior to the playoffs management made it clear to Karl that second round was the requirement.

      For Karl to say he was shocked and confused about his firing is just posturing by him.
      Karl is a nice guy and a great coach but he always believes he’s the smartest basketball mind in the room. But zero championships in 30 years of coaching says otherwise.

      • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:26 AM

        thumbs up, Karl hasn’t won anything.

      • blugold94 - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        4thquarter…..could you leave another 100 posts telling us how Denver was right with this move? Because you just don’t write enough about it and we’re still not sure how you feel.

      • bigmeechy74 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        It’s not easy to win championships. So is Jerry Sloan a lousy coach? Was Charles Barkley a lousy player? I think it’s so annoying to only use “how many rings?” as a criteria when judging a player/coach.

  3. leearmon - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:38 AM

    I tell you, Karl is a jewel. He has no ounce of self accountability. I remember after the Melo trade, he blamed Melo for Denver’s shortcomings in the postseason. Now after three more 1st round exits (without Melo on the roster btw) and his inexplicable decision to play Wilson Chandler at the 5 for chunks of their series with the Warriors, a series where there was no rim protection to stop Steph, Barnes and co from getting and attacking the rim (outside of Javale), he crushes Denver management for deciding to avoid a lame duck coaching situation. Please! Karl is a media darling, especially with you Kurt, so Im sure we’ll hear the same old song “Denver could have had a serious run had they been healthy…” Again, I love Gallo, but Lebron James he is not. Nor is he Danny Granger, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Luol Deng or any other elite wing player who missed postseason action this year. And remember, each of those players I named, their teams still won a playoff series without them.

    For a guy who has lost in the first round as a 1 and 3 seed, and a coach who has disappointed in the postseason far more than he has excelled. He sure does play the role of victim quite well. Denver was more than fair to G.K. he had a long tenure with limited success. And lets also not forget, Karl had run ins with Melo, J.R., Kenyon Martin & BIrdman in previous years. Each of those players had one of, if not their best seasons this year on other rosters. What does that say about Karl the communicator? But give him a sec, Im sure he’ll come up with a viable excuse for those failures too….

    • daniel10017 - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      I agree with your comments. It’s clear that after 9 years Karl WILL NEVER WIN A TITLE. He just doesn’t have the mental make-up to push his players to strive further. Denver was justified in firing him. Yes, the next coach will probably not win 57 games next year, but who cares, a season is always a success no matter what your record states if you get to the Western conference finals. It was quite clear Denver was never going to get there with Karl at the helm.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:53 AM

      Great stuff. Here. Karl never accepted blame for a thing his entire 9 year tenure here. It was always injuries (Gallanari) or the player (jr smith, McGee).

      Mark Jackson made Karl look silly this year and for anyone (even Karl supporters) to say otherwise would be ignorant.

  4. nard100 - Jun 14, 2013 at 8:59 AM

    I tend to think of Karl as a bit of a whiner, but in this case he has a point. They won and made the playoffs. As far as getting younger players on the floor, I guess n argument could be made that with more minutes he would get better and more consistent, but an argument can also be made that players have to earn their playing time with consistency.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      To justify Karl’s success this year by saying “he won and made the playoffs” is a cop out.
      Yes Karl helped win 57 games. WHY DO YOU WIN 57 GAMES?
      To be the #3 seed and get beaten down by a 6 seed?
      Not good enough.
      After 9 years if Karl being not good enough, time for everyone to move on.

      • adoombray - Jun 14, 2013 at 12:44 PM

        “To justify Karl’s success this year by saying “he won and made the playoffs” is a cop out.”

        This… you barely have to play above .500 to make the playoffs in the NBA. the regular season means nothing. The 7-8 seeds are almost always terrible teams who don’t really deserve to go. Karl is the NBA Marty Schottenheimer, or a room temperature canned domestic beer – you could do worse, but you could do a lot better too.

  5. drago2012 - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Denver Nugets don’t make the playoffs next year!!!!Javale will take all top ten spots of the year on Shaqtinafool series by himself!!!!

  6. ryanrockzzz - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    I could see replacing Karl if you feel he can’t take the team to the next level, but the fact is this decision screams taking the team BACK a level. Playing the younger players on this roster would be mean less wins, and wouldn’t really translate into more in the future, simply because the young talent is all that good. The ownership of the Nuggets needs a coach/GM willing to buy in and do whatever they want to a degree, and that will never be a good coach/GM. (ala why they are interviewing Tony Dileo)

  7. secdominance - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I like JaVale McGee but building around him is stupid. Just like the idea of playing highly inconsistent players lots of minutes has always been

  8. azarkhan - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    So let me get this straight. A Hall of Fame coach who was named Coach of the Year and whose team won 57 games (70% winning percentage) was fired because he refused to play “lazy and crazy” JaVale Magee, a player mostly known for his recurring role as a bumbling, stumbling idiot on Shaqtin a Fool? Seriously??

    Coach Karl was being kind when he called the decision to fire him “stupid”. It’s more along the lines of completely f***ing idiotic.

    • skywalker720 - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM

      He was fired because he’s one of the worst post season coaches in NBA history. The Nuggets were a playoff team the year before Karl took over (they lost in the first round) and since then have lost in the first round all but one season.

      In that time he’s been routinely out coached and made some epic blunders. For instance, having your 6’2 back up pg come in and inbound a pass over the 6’11 Lamar Odom in the final minute of the WCF. That worked out terribly (what a brilliant coach!) and in this most recent series Mark Jackson made Karl look like a fool. GS loses David Lee and has to go small, instead of taking advantage of that, Karl decides to go even smaller, trying to have Wilson Chandler (a SF) play center against Andrew Bogut.

      If you want to win regular season games and make perennial playoff appearances, Karl is your guy. If you want to championships, Karl isn’t going to deliver.

    • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:59 AM

      Meh. Talented “players” win out in the NBA.
      If it was about the coach, Popovich would have 15 titles by now.
      McGee has been unfairly targeted by everyone as a reason for Karl’s firing.
      McGee is merely one example management used as saying hey you need to develop players we bring in.
      Evan Fournier is another example of a guy Karl didnt trust even though he showed promise. Evan is not a doofus or immature but he isn’t a veteran so Karl didnt want to play him.

      • azarkhan - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:29 AM

        Meh. Evan Fournier is a 20 year old rookie who played in 38 games, averaging 11 MPG. Only an idiot would start a rookie over Lawson or Miller.

      • 4thquartermagic - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:34 AM

        Uhhh. Fournier is a SG. I like how people who never watch nuggets games feel entitled to comment on what they do.

      • azarkhan - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        I don’t care if he’s a SG, PG, SF, PF, or C, he’s still a 20 year old rookie. Comprendo?

      • azarkhan - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:47 AM

        Oh, and besides being 20 years old, Fournier played in France, so it may take him some time to adjust to the NBA style of play. Just saying…

      • rushbacker - Jun 14, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        Karl wouldn’t play Jordan Hamilton or Julyan Stone, either. All of our talented young back-court and wing players had to ride pine all year so that older-than-dirt Andre Miller could play extra minutes at the two every night.

  9. tru2joelu4eva - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    george karl was generally successful, there’s no doubt about that. the team was always good during the regular season and made the playoffs each of the nine years he was the head coach. however, 8 of those 9 years the nuggets failed to win a playoff series. i feel that deserves repeating. 8 of the 9 years george karl was the head coach of the denver nuggets they failed to win a playoff series. i have to agree with @leearmon. it was always “had this team been healthy… melo had a bad attitude and didn’t play a team game…” if the nuggets want to seriously compete such glaring shortcomings in the postseason can’t be acceptable.

    • tru2joelu4eva - Jun 14, 2013 at 10:50 AM

      not to mention that he encouraged trading away the entire roster from the one year they did have playoff success, losing to the lakers in the conference finals.

  10. bkallday52 - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    The TWO BIGGEST FAILS AS AN ORGANIZATION From The Owners Standpoint has to be THE NUGGETS AND THE GRIZZLIES….Its Jus Ridiculous How the Grizzlies … Let go of RUDY GAY AND OJ MAYO … i see they probably couldn’t afford em both but not having neither really affected them against the spurs because they didnt have no 1 who could create their own shot to space the floor for zach randolph… Then they dont extend Coach Hollins Contract … Coach Hollins coaching style was perfect for the way the Grizz Played….. Denver is ridiculous also you let a hall of fame coach go? for what? They won 57 games .. competed exceptionally well in the playoffs without one of their better players in Gallinari … and theyre a really young team which can explode with the development of Javelle Magee .. Sometimes i wonder who are the Idiots running these teams and making these idiotic moves … I dont think Karl is a fit for memphis anyhow.. His best fit is prolly the Clippers cuz he’s more of an up tempo coach

  11. puhleezho - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    team chemistry is why this team exceeded expectations. this team will not win 50 games next year with a new regime in charge.

  12. kanemoney - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    Karl doesn’t win you championships but he wins a ton of games and his teams are fun to watch. More importantly he can do this with no elite players. No Nugget is top 5 in the league at their position. Think about that.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      I did and those same players bombed in the first round.
      same old Karl.
      The problem is Karl always goes out like this, Seattle, Milwaukee.
      The league is going younger coaches like Kidd.

  13. loungefly74 - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    with all the asshatery by the front office, in the end…not advancing in the playoffs is reason enough to be fired. simple as that.

    don’t feel to bad…Karl will have another job.count on it!

  14. mblue24 - Jun 14, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Denver, Memphis and the LA Clippers all made mistakes firing the coaches. Now I hope they all fail bc where is the loyalty now days. BS.

  15. jdpm24 - Jun 14, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    Karl has never had championship talent. He coached teams which could not ever compete and pay for talent L.A., Chicago etc. had. He has brought a young team to the playoffs and lost to a deep and talented Warriors team which then won two games against the spurs, almost three. He did this with Galinari out and injuries to Faried, and Lawson. Karl was not outcoqched by Jackson. Everyone has run ins with J.R. smith, Melo, Birdman etc.They are unstable and selfish. This was a ridiculous firing which followed an unfortunate exit of Masai UJiri.
    A stupid, ridiculous firing.

  16. edpeters101 - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:11 PM

    Nobody ever said Denver had the smartest owners, or spent the money required to have a championship team. OK, we did it with #7!

  17. cflip376 - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Karl is acting like a diva now. The ultimate goal is to win a championship, not constantly get bounced out of the first round. Can’t believe people are buying into his excuses and his victim act. He was good but great.

  18. jprcox - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    Karl should have won a championship in Seattle – no question those Sonics had “championship talent”, and the Sonics replaced Karl following an otherwise successful season too. That said, the Denver Nuggets DO NOT have the championship talent, but Karl led them better than anyone else could have. His firing was very “stupid” – and unfair.

  19. jachaiss - Jun 14, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    It’s great Karl can win in the regular season but last time I checked the finales is at the end of the playoffs. And to loose in the first round all but once while in Denver that says it all.

  20. chrisco716 - Jun 14, 2013 at 6:34 PM

    This is going to be an interesting transition in Denver. Clearly with George Karl at the helm Iggy would have been happy and the team would make the playoffs and win at least 50 games. Many Denver fans think that with Karl gone the team will do better than that and even compete for a title. More likely, this young, “no” all-star, “no” superstar team will regress, probably lose Iggy, miss the playoffs and go downhill for quite awhile. Remind anyone of Phoenix? Owners know so much more than coaches… just ask them. Karl will make out just fine. Denver… probably not so much.

  21. kb2408 - Jun 14, 2013 at 9:27 PM

    Karl coached how many seasons? And won how many titles? He’s a good coach but a little overrated.

  22. gudy2shoes - Jun 15, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Next stop, coach of the Seattle Supersonics

  23. pistolpete0903 - Jun 15, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    A point being missed out is that the Warriors were a very good team. Prior to the Curry injury, they were giving the Spurs all they could handle.
    So, it was not exactly a let down loosing to GS (also remember that Gallo was out).
    Not a great fan of coach Karl, but he is right in this case.

    Also, does the departure of Ujiri had something to do with it. Maybe the Nuggets are just cleaning shop.

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