Once again the strange world of NBA coaching has spit out one if its finest members, sending George Karl packing from the Denver Nuggets bench and into uncertainty.
Just weeks after the 62-year old won the NBA Coach of the Year award, he now finds himself looking for a new employer. Karl was apparently let go after the team refused to talk about an extension on his current deal which the team held an option on after next season. They had no interest in renewing his deal now and instead of dealing with him being angry next season, they opted to let him go now.
His firing outlines the bleak circumstances which NBA coaches have to work in now. Having won 57 games this season and leading his young roster to the No. 3 seed in the vaunted Western Conference, Karl is let go, having taken Denver to the postseason every year since his arrival in 2004. He was one of the longest tenured coaches with any franchise at the time of his firing and leaves having created a talented young lineup that has the potential to compete for a title.
Karl is the second departure from Nuggets management in recent weeks as General Manager Masai Ujiri also departed for Toronto. Now Karl faces an interesting future if he is to continue his quest for an NBA title, but one thing is for sure, he will be hired somewhere. Current openings include Los Angeles (Clippers), Philadelphia, Brooklyn and possibly Memphis should Lionel Hollins be allowed to depart despite wanting to stay on as the Grizzlies coach.
The fact that Hollins is not being courted more fervently by Memphis is disturbing enough considering he has taken that franchise from irrelevant to the Western Conference Finals and three consecutive playoff appearances. Now with Karl’s firing, one has to wonder if there is such a thing as job security for an NBA coach.
Granted, Karl led the Nuggets past the first round of the playoffs just once, but nonetheless he never coached a loser. Basketball in the Mile High city has been healthy for some time and seems to have a bright future and part of that is thanks to the hard work of Karl. As he goes forward, his resume is impressive with a winning percentage around 60%. So where will he find work next? Let’s have a look at the options.
The Nets are actually an ideal candidate to hire Karl as he can develop a system that suits having a strong big man (Brook Lopez), good point guard (Deron Williams) and a valuable jump shooter (Joe Johnson) just as he has in Denver. The Nets were strong on the boards and a top ten defensive team this season under PJ Carlesimo’s guidance on an interim basis. What the team could achieve under Karl could fit the expectations of the team’s incredibly rich and ambitious owner Mikhail Prokhorov.
The Nets would improve drastically in a key area that they were average in last season, points in the paint. Karl teams are always good in the paint, and if the Nets can develop their offense from close range, they could easily become a team that goes deeper in the playoffs over the coming years.
This is a mouth watering idea since the Clippers are in need of a step up when it comes to their coach. If there is a coach out there that knows how to coach forwards, it’s Karl who in his time as a coach has helped develop Shawn Kemp, Carmelo Anthony and Kenneth Faried.
By handing him Blake Griffin and probably a star point guard in Chris Paul, Karl could easily guide the Clippers to the next level of success in just a year or two, but the Clippers at present appear more interested in looking at Lionel Hollins as they try to continue improving defensively.
This idea is linked to the fact that the Nuggets were such a dominant force in the paint all season and the Grizzlies have what could be said is the best front court in the NBA. Just imagining the ways Karl could find for the Memphis offense to click is tantalizing to Memphis fans who have watched their team shoot forgettable percentages over the last few years.
On top of that, if Memphis can hang on to some of the defensive culture that Hollins has instilled in that team, they’ll be a powerhouse under Karl. Of all the teams mentioned, Memphis would require the least amount of adjustment for Karl coming in as the new head coach.