MIAMI – The Coach of the Year curse usually doesn’t strike so fast.
With one year left on his contract, Karl was pushing for a contract extension and ownership was unwilling to make the commitment. With a sense that Denver could be facing a year of acrimony with the 2012-’13 NBA Coach of the Year, CEO Josh Kroenke decided to part ways with Karl.
For Kroenke, this was a bold move for the franchise, but multiple sources said that Karl had been so unhappy about going into the final year of his contract without a new deal that things could’ve become untenable with him.
Nuggets management believes it can attract an elite coach with its talented, young roster.
Denver made the decision official just before noon ET. Karl becomes the third coach in NBA history to win the Coach of the Year award and not return to the same team the following season. And Denver, with Masai Ujiri having left for Toronto, is now without a top executive and a coach.
The list of teams looking for a new coach already includes the Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers and probably the Memphis Grizzlies, who have given other teams permission to talk to Lionel Hollins. The Hawks, Bobcats, Cavs, Bucks, Suns and Kings all hired new coaches since the season’s end.
Karl could now become a candidate for some of those open jobs and he’s got quite the resume, having compiled a 1,131-756 (.599) record with five different franchises and having only missed the playoffs once in the 22 seasons he has completed (he was twice fired mid-year).
He earned his first Coach of the Year award by leading the star-less Nuggets to 57 wins and the No. 3 seed in a tough Western Conference.
“That’s a huge surprise,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the news Thursday morning before Game 1 of The Finals. “He’s an all-time great head coach, so I don’t know how you could do much better. But I don’t know the circumstances, so I’m not going to say anything else besides that.”
In his 21 full seasons, 18 of Karl’s teams have ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency and nine have ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency. In each of his nine seasons in Denver (one partial and eight full), the Nuggets have ranked in the top five in pace.
But he’s been knocked out in the first round in 13 of those 21 trips to the playoffs. He’s taken his team to the conference finals four times and The Finals just once (in 1996 with the Sonics).
George Karl’s NBA coaching career
*Fired after 67 games
** Fired after 64 games
*** Took over after 40 games
**** Took over after 42 games
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
All stats (other than wins and losses) are for the team’s full season.