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George Karl hopes to return to coaching, admits ‘anger and frustration’ over way things ended with Nuggets

Oct 6, 2013, 9:30 PM EDT

George Karl AP

George Karl led the Nuggets to the best home record in all of the NBA last season, and along with it a 57-win season that was the most in franchise history since the team joined the NBA in the 1976-77 season.

But all of that wasn’t enough to save Karl’s job.

He won the Coach of the Year award, but a first round playoff exit at the hands of the Warriors combined with some philosophical differences on how to use the players on the roster (and Karl pushing for a contract extension entering the final year of his deal) saw the tenured head coach who had spent the past eight-plus seasons in Denver unceremoniously relieved of his duties.

Karl’s had a little time to reflect on how it all went down, and while he’ll be joining ESPN as an analyst, he hopes to return to an NBA bench in the near future. Overall, he finds it difficult to understand the reasons that the team chose to go in another direction.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

“I don’t have a lot of bitterness other than I don’t understand. But not understanding — when you are working in a world of millions, millions, and millions of dollars, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand.

“There’s a lot of contracts we give players that I don’t understand. There’s a lot of trades that I don’t understand. There are a lot of decisions I don’t understand.

“I can’t deny there’s an anger and frustration. But there’s much more celebration in my heart than anything else.”

The differences with management were understandable, at least from Karl’s perspective. They wanted him to develop players like JaVale McGee and Evan Fournier during the regular season, but Karl wanted to win, so he gave the minutes to the more experienced guys on his roster like Kosta Koufos and Andre Miller instead.

It’s tough to argue with the results, and remember, had Danilo Gallinari not suffered a torn ACL injury near the end of the regular season, the Nuggets might have had a stronger chance once they entered the postseason.

The power play by Karl to gain more security in the form of a contract extension ultimately backfired, and with GM Masai Ujiri gone to Toronto, he had no one in his corner to fight for him to stay. He’s a great basketball mind that should land another job at some point, although it will likely take a front office who wants to bring in all of that valuable experience to manage a veteran roster, instead of going with a bright young mind to lead a franchise into the future.

  1. kingwithringz - Oct 6, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    No disrespect to George Karl, but he is a regular season coach. Doesn’t really pan out in the playoffs.

    • adamsjohn714 - Oct 6, 2013 at 10:30 PM

      He was also poor in the regular season. For some reason he hates playing a center in the 4th quarter. It’s as if he doesn’t think rebounds matter or something. Instead, he loved to play his idiotic pet chicken named Corey Brewer who can’t shoot, manage to hang onto the ball, or avoid fouling the other team. His roster was just about idiot proof, but somehow he managed to screw it up.

      • spursareold - Oct 7, 2013 at 10:24 AM

        Poor in the regular season? Is that why they were the 3 seed in the WC, setting a franchise record for wins?

      • adamsjohn714 - Oct 7, 2013 at 12:59 PM

        They were the 3 seed in the WC because they had a lot of good players that their GM (who they fired for no reason) put on the roster. Almost every coach in the NBA would have been a top 3 seed. Karl loved his idiotic “small ball” because he wanted to watch Corey Brewer suck royally instead of Kenneth Faried grab offensive rebounds. It’s been this way his entire coaching career. He prefers to lose with his style than win with any other strategy.

        Also, judging coaches on just wins/losses doesn’t make any sense. Judge them on whether they play their best players the most minutes (Karl doesn’t) and whether players improve when they come to the team (takes years of data across several players to eliminate randomness, and Karl doesn’t do this)

      • redbaronx - Oct 8, 2013 at 1:48 AM

        @adamsjohn714 – You obviously know diddly squat about bball.

        A) You don’t judge a coach on his “ability to play his best players the most minutes”. If that were true, anyone could coach. And by your theory, the Spurs and Greg Popovich would have been better if Manu Ginobili was a starter the last decade. Pop and the Spurs are Exhibit A as to why your theory is BS.
        B) If you think JaVale is one of those “best players” there is a good reason Karl benched his ass. Just ask Wizards fans. JaVale misses basic defensive assignments and single handedly can give up 15 points a game on stupid plays.
        C) If reaching a #3 spot in the West without a single star doesn’t open your eyes, nothing will. And how can you say he prefers to “lose with his style”? Moronic statement. Denver has slightly above average talent and he got more out of them than most any coach could. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in the 6 to 8 spot this year. Losing Karl is going to hurt.
        D) Karl didn’t play small ball. Did he play small ball with Shawn Kemp? Detlef Shremp? Nene? Be serious! You know nothing!
        E) Karl took Seattle to the finals in ’96 and lost to the Bulls, so don’t give us that crap about Karl not succeeding in the playoffs. Most coaches can only dream of making a Finals appearance, and would be happy making the conference finals (which he did 3 times), or the 1,000 wins he has that only 6 other coaches can claim.

        Please be quiet and respect that Karl’s little pinky knows more ball then you will know in 100 lifetimes! The man did a kick ass job and got fired by management because he didn’t play JaVale. We’ll all see how that one works out in the end! Boneheaded management. I feel sorry for Denver fans! They didn’t deserve this.

      • adamsjohn714 - Oct 9, 2013 at 11:44 PM

        Not everyone can be an NBA coach, obviously. But, when judged against his peers in the categories I mentioned, Karl does quite poorly. Essentially you’re saying that if Lebron gets hurt, Coach Spo is instantly a moron. Wins/Losses are largely irrelevant in the way I judge coaches. Every year there’s this big coaching carousel with the same faces on different teams, yet the same teams win each year.

        I’m going to disregard your posts from now on Redbaron. This is because nearly everything you said above is incorrect, unresearched, and unfounded.

      • redbaronx - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:29 PM

        You’re a joke dude. Karl’s career stats are readily available for any moron that surfs the internet. You don’t have to be a genius to find them and I don’t need to research them, because unlike morons like you, I know it by heart!

        FACT: George Karl has more wins than any active coach in the League
        FACT: He coached the Sonics to the NBA Finals in 96
        FACT: George Karl is the 11th coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 wins.

        Only a moron like you could ignore those facts and call what I said into question by saying I got my facts wrong. I just proved you’re a total idiot!

        Secondly, I have no idea what you’re talking about with the Heat. I didn’t say jack about Spo. That’s your own imagination at work creating fantasy scenarios. All I said was that coaches don’t just allocate minutes by rolling out their best players on the floor. I gave you the example of Popovich who plays Manu as the 6th man off the bench instead of starting. Good coaches know how to play personnel, not just roll out their best players on the floor like you would do. That’s fantasy league coaching.

      • redbaronx - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:32 PM

        Oh and by the way, notice the 3 to 17 thumbs down on your comments. There’s another FACT for you. People KNOW your comments are stupid!!!

    • stankcobra - Oct 6, 2013 at 11:39 PM

      Not every coach can have Jordan or Magic or Duncan or LeBron. Karl always found ways to stay competitive without major superstars. He knows how to win games in this league. The problem is in the playoffs you really do need the Magics and the Duncans to get you out of trouble.

      • redbaronx - Oct 10, 2013 at 10:39 PM

        @stankcobra – You had a really good point there! I can’t believe the morons on this thread trashing George Karl. I love how people just ignore the fact that the man has over 1,000 wins and he still coached the Bucks (for crying out loud) for a good chunk of his career. He took Seattle to the NBA Finals in 96, and he coached one of the best hoops European clubs on the planet (Real Madrid)

        What he did last year was nothing short of amazing.

    • billvaneron - Mar 2, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      As I look at the nuggets today, the following thoughts rise to the top.
      1. What George Karl did to take a team without any superstars into serious contention was no less than inspiring to any of us that believe team ball is better than hero ball.
      2. That said, losing Gallo really hurt.
      3. George did not deserve the callous treatment he got from Kronke. Even if they did part ways, it should have been done with more class.
      4. I can only suspect Iguodala and Brewer bailed because of that shallow treatment.
      5. There is no tangible regular season and playoff season coaching transition that supports statements that George was one and not the other. There’s just coaching period and you have to look at his record to get past opinions.
      6. I like Brian Shaw and while he is green, he also has promise. That said, Denver went from having a team that maybe needed one more year under Karl to now in total rebuild mode. They gave up a 70% chance of success for a 3 year development pause. Can’t say I agree with it yet.

      Ha, maybe we will get Melo back. Look at Denver East, I mean the New York Knicks and look at how they struggle with the same players Karl was able to work wonders with. That should be telling about Karl’s skills.

  2. canadatude - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    Karl could find a fit coaching the Raptors in Toronto if they don’t get off to a good start. Casey is in the final year of his deal there and has not won yet. Masai Ujiri also left Denver for TO, so he has connections there.

  3. 5280fan1 - Oct 8, 2013 at 1:51 PM

    Last year’s Nuggets were huge overachievers. They started slow and then went on an incredible streak. What Karl did was to get the players to buy into the system, each other and him. No other coach could have brought them to that point.

    Perhaps that big push to secure the third slot burned them out after such a long run with that draining win streak. Golden State got hot at the wrong time. Iguodala would still be in Denver and with Galinari coming back the Nuggets would have certainly been a favorite to be a top four team in the west.

  4. diehardnr1 - Oct 8, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    Uriji did not get fired AdamsJohn…he quit to go back “home” to Toronto…and Denver did not stand in his way. BIG difference…

    I too am glad Karl is gone…he was stale in Denver, only once having them out of the first round. Great strategic mind…horrible in-game coach…and it bit him in the end.

  5. denverfan1972 - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    As a Denver native and Nuggets fan there were alot of us fans who were shocked and sad to see coach Karl go. He did a Hell of job here especially with no Big name players! After Melo left, the Nuggets became a better “team”! They all shared the ball, played together not like with Melo who thought he was the “team”. If we wouldn’t have lost Galinari there is no doubt we would have made it further. Give the man his props..he deserves all the accolades & then some!!! It just makes me laugh that these morons..aka couch coaches can sit there and one of the greatest coaches in the NBA!!!

    • denverfan1972 - Nov 18, 2013 at 11:31 PM


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