Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
George Karl and 1,000 wins: What will be his NBA coaching legacy?
Steve Aschburner: I think George Karl is going end up as sort of a pocket Nellie – and I mean that as a good thing. The two coaches have been linked in myriad ways: It was Don Nelson who kept Karl in the league after he’d been fired in Cleveland, putting him to work as a scout/consultant in Milwaukee. It was Nelson who had Karl as a coach in Golden State – then replaced him on the Warriors’ sideline. Like Nelson, Karl has moved around, with a sense that he can wear out his welcome. Like Nelson, he has coached some terrific basketball: His Seattle teams were Karl’s variation on Nellie’s ’80s Bucks: talent, regular-season success and lack of postseason payoff. Both have been fascinating, entertaining, dramatic, candid sideline figures. And I don’t think either would mind being linked to the other.
Art Garcia: I’ve always believed that George Karl is possibly one of the top 10 coaches in league history. Other than the wins and the fact that he hasn’t won a title, George makes his teams better wherever he goes. That’s an underrated talent in a culture that lives by numbers and tangible results. If I owned a team, I’d be happy with someone like Karl coaching my guys. And I’m not sure he’s worried about his legacy. He just wants to coach.
Fran Blinebury: A lot of people will view him as a grumbling grinder who jumped to enough teams and stayed around long enough to eventually pile up 1,000 games. But in truth, he simply loves the game, is on a Quixotic quest for perfection and can’t comprehend anyone else who isn’t.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The coach who evolved and the man who survived. Everyone always knew he was an outstanding basketball mind, but it wasn’t until George Karl became grounded on the sidelines, unlike his earliest jobs, that he flourished as a coach. He works well with temperamental stars and grunts trying to scrap their way to a career. Along the way, he survived the emotions, he survived the cancer and became someone to root for.
Shaun Powell: He had one of the worst calendar years of any elite coach when, in 2002, his Bucks swiftly went from first place in the East to a total meltdown and missed the playoffs altogether; then that summer his Team USA squad finished sixth in the World Championship. But nobody remembers that because 1,000 wins is rarefied air. That will be his legacy, as it should, along with an amazing ability to coexist with Gary Payton.
John Schuhmann: If you were to ask me a few years ago, it would have been the 2002 World Championship. But in covering the league, I’ve grown to appreciate George Karl as an NBA lifer who just loves the game of basketball and loves to teach it. In the 19 seasons that he’s finished as a coach, he’s made the playoffs 18 times. With that kind of record, it’s hard to argue that he’s not a Hall of Famer.
Sekou Smith: His legacy is still being written. The 1,000 wins provides an opportunity for a much happier ending than might have been written if Karl had stayed away from the business after things fell apart in Milwaukee (and later with the 2002 FIBA World Championship team he coached that we all watched crash and burn in dramatic fashion on the global stage in Indianapolis). Instead of running and hiding or fleeing to the college game, Karl has proven to be one of the more resilient coaches (on and off the court) of all time.