NBA

Denver Nuggets sack Coach of the Year George Karl

George Karl has been dismissed (©GettyImages)
George Karl has been dismissed (©GettyImages).

The Denver Nuggets have lost George Karl, less than a month after the 62-year-old won the NBA's Coach of the Year award.

Karl, who has been in charge of the franchise for eight-and-a-half seasons, will follow general manager Masai Ujiri, who has accepted the offer of a similar position with the Toronto Raptors, out of the exit door.

His resignation comes with just a year left on his contract, a factor that may have impacted the two-time cancer survivor's decision. 

He took to Twitter, posting on his certified account: "I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home."

In response, Nuggets big man Kenneth Faried tweeted: "So, we lost a GM now and a coach, what's next?" 

There are quite a few teams currently on the lookout for a new coach. The Los Angeles Clippers, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have vacancies while the Memphis Grizzlies have given current boss Lionel Hollins permission to speak with other teams.

Karl, who guided the third-youngest team in the NBA to the third-best record in the Western Conference with a franchise-record 57 wins, is unlikely to be short on offers.

"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," Nuggets president Josh Kroenke said in a statement.

"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."

His players shared that feeling, with forward Danilo Gallinari commenting: "I had a great relationship with him and I was honoured to be coached by him. Hopefully the management now will do smart choices."

All this week, Karl was evasive when he showed up at the team's facilities to watch potential draft picks work out for the Nuggets - declining numerous interview requests.

With the Raptors having already lured away Ujiri, a rising star among the league's front office ranks, having earned respect for his handling of the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York and his ability to assemble a relatively starless roster that still managed to be a formidable foe in the West, the loss of Karl will come as a big blow to Denver - despite their four consecutive first-round playoff exits.

The only time Denver advanced past the first round under Karl was when the team reached the Western Conference finals in 2009.

But Karl did a masterful job this season with a line-up that was riddled by injuries to several starters and wound its way through a gruelling early-season schedule in which 22 of the team's first 32 games were on the road.

His teams simply wore out opponents, especially in the thin air of the Mile High City, where they went an NBA-best 38-3 at home. The Nuggets won their last 23 games at the Pepsi Center in the regular season and went 24-4 overall after the All-Star break.

That's why the Nuggets were a big favourite heading into the Golden State series to open the playoffs. But Denver sorely missed Gallinari (knee injury) and fell in six games to a Warriors squad that was led by the sharp-shooting Stephen Curry.

Still, his work in the regular season was recognised by the league as he received 62 first place votes, followed by Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat with 24 votes, for Coach of the Year. It was the first time Karl has won the award in his career and he joined Doug Moe as the only Denver coach to earn the honour.

In addition to Denver, he's also had coaching stops in Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle and Milwaukee during his 25-year career. His 1,131 regular season wins are among the most in NBA history.

 

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Topics:
Denver Nuggets
NBA

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