SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Coach George Karl, while emphasizing his recovery from cancer continues to go well and that he still sees a long future with the Nuggets, raised the possibility Sunday that he will ask for a reduced work load during particularly crowded times in the schedule.
The seventh-winningest coach in league history told NBA.com that the travel has become especially wearing and that he may speak with team officials about staying overnight in a city and flying to the next stop the following morning, rather than leaving with the team after the game and often arriving early in the morning.
Karl said he does not, however, envision missing games.
“I don’t think it’ll ever go that far,” he said. “I’ve thought about not traveling with the team on the late-night flights. I’ve thought about instead of getting to bed at 4 o’clock in the morning, I’ll let my coaches have the morning shootaround. I’ll sleep in in L.A. or I’ll sleep in in Sacramento, get up at 7:30 or 8 o’clock, catch a flight. I’ve thought about that. But my energy level is getting better and stronger every year. I’m feeling healthier. I’m trying to eat better. People ask me all the time how am I doing. I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I was doing before I got cancer.”
Karl, 62, missed part of 2009-10 after being diagnosed with cancer in the neck and throat. His return the next season was one of the inspirational stories of the league, and he used his high profile to encourage fundraising and checkups for early detection, all while becoming just the seventh coach to win 1,000 games and then, at the end of 2011-12, coaching heavy underdogs to a Game 7 against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
This season has been a particular physical challenge because the Nuggets have played 18 of the first 25 games on the road, most recently the 122-97 rout of the Kings at Sleep Train Arena. It has taken a toll on Karl. That he did not ask for relief in the first quarter, the worst of the 2012-13 travel merry-go-round, indicates he may not do anything soon, but the chance it will happen in the future has become undeniable.
“The NBA is four to five games a week,” he told NBA.com. “I think I can handle that the way I’m doing it now, but I also don’t want to intensify my life any more. I would like to slowly cut whatever I’m cutting. Five or 10 percent of my intensity. I don’t want the organization to be unhappy with me. I think my organization’s happy with me, but I delegate a lot. I give it to my assistant coaches a lot more than I think most coaches do.”
Karl has other coaching decisions to make down the line. He still wants to work with on the bench with son Coby Karl, a late cut in camp by the Trail Blazers who now plays with the Idaho Stampede of the National Basketball Development League. Both have experience in Europe – George as a coach, Coby as a player – and the elder Karl has also thought about one day returning there to coach, an interesting notion considering NBA opportunities will never disappear if his time in Denver does end.
“The way I phrase that is,” George Karl said, “every year I think my window of thinking about retiring is bigger than it’s ever been. But it’s still not very big.”
So he still envisions himself with the Nuggets for several more seasons.
“This team here, I see me coaching for a while because I think it has a chance to be really good,” he said.