Denver Nuggets

Report: George Karl 'Unsettled' in Wake of Nuggets GM's Departure

Apr 20, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl reacts during the second half of game one of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won97-95.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 3, 2013

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is on shaky ground after the departure of former general manager Masai Ujiri.

Apparently winning the Coach of the Year award doesn't count for much these days.

Per Shelburne:

Ujiri's departure, coupled with Denver's disappointing first-round playoff exit, has shaken things up in Denver to the point that Karl, who is under contract for just one more season, could, incredibly, begin the season on the hot seat after winning the league's top coaching honor for the first time in his long career, instead of beginning extension talks.

So, in matter of just a few weeks, Karl went from winning the league's highest coaching honor and earning a ton of praise from peers around the league to being on the hot seat. I mean, just look at what the Nuggets tweeted on May 13:

Actually, it's hard to be surprised by this kind of thing anymore. After all, Lionel Hollins, who took his team deeper into the playoffs than Karl did, is apparently on the way out in Memphis.

The questions about Karl's sometimes-curious rotation decisions have been part of the narrative for a while now. Some unusual lineups in an upset loss against the Golden State Warriors in the first round brought those issues right back to the head of the conversation about Karl's string of postseason disappointments.

Despite 1,131 regular-season wins—good for sixth place on the all-time list—Karl's postseason winning percentage is just .432. But it's pretty hard to knock a guy who has been to the playoffs more times than any coach in NBA history.

Karl is obviously passionate about what he does, but based on the acceptance speech he gave after winning his Coach of the Year honor this past season, he also has a ton of perspective and maybe even a few regrets about what his career has done to his personal life.

So it's not crazy to say that Karl might not be totally against any decision to eventually remove him from his position with the Nuggets.

Looking ahead, Karl is still under contract for another season in Denver. But the Los Angeles Clippers might not be willing to wait that long for his services. Per Shelburne, the Clips have already had talks with the Nuggets about Karl, and although Brian Shaw and Jeff Van Gundy are the front-runners for the job in L.A., that could certainly change if Karl suddenly became available.

After seeing how successfully Karl managed a great point guard (Gary Payton) and an ultra-athletic power forward (Shawn Kemp) in Seattle, it makes sense that the Clippers' front office might like to see how he'd handle Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

The unpredictable coaching carousel continues to spin in the NBA, and now names that seemed totally untouchable are surfacing as candidates to move. Of course, after a quarter-century as a head coach in the league, Karl knows that no amount of success can prevent a front office's desire to shake things up.

If he wants to stick around in Denver, he should be given the opportunity to finish out his contract. But if the Clippers want to swoop in an snatch Karl away, that might not be such a bad alternative. Either way, this latest news about Karl's job security proves that he NBA is no longer a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately? league.

Instead, it's really more like a why-haven't-you-done-more-for-me? league.

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