The Denver Nuggets have parted ways with longtime head coach George Karl. Team president Josh Kroenke officially announced the decision on Thursday.
According to NBA.com, Kroenke stated:
George has been an instrumental part of our success over the past decade, and we appreciate everything he did to keep us among the top teams in the Western Conference. He is a Hall of Fame coach whose legacy in Denver will last for years to come. George is a legend in the game of basketball and I could not have more respect for him as a person and coach.
Karl later released a statement via Twitter:
I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home.— George Karl (@CoachKarl22) June 6, 2013
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first reported this shocking snippet of news on Thursday morning:
Denver has parted ways with coach George Karl, league source tells Yahoo! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 6, 2013
As Wojnarowski pointed out in a separate report, with just one year left on Karl's current deal, the Nuggets decided to cut ties with the man that had been their head coach since the 2004-05 season. Wojnarowski noted that Karl sought an extension, but ownership wasn’t willing to commit to him for the long-term.
General manager Masai Ujiri’s defection to the Toronto Raptors may have also had something to do with this breakup, as Karl's status was “unsettled” after his departure, per Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Karl recently made headlines by winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year Award—the first of his long and decorated career—by guiding the Nuggets to a 57-25 record and No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
The 62-year-old received 62 of a possible 121 first-place votes, more than double the number that runner-up Erik Spoelstra received.
But despite making the playoffs in every season under Karl, the Nuggets only advanced past the first round one time, when they made the conference finals in 2009. This postseason, they suffered a devastating first-round defeat at the hands of the No. 6 seeded Golden State Warriors.
Nuggets starting power forward Kenneth Faried was clearly shocked by the news, commenting on Twitter about the recent upheaval in the Mile High City:
So we lost a GM now a coach what's next!?— Kenneth Faried (@KennethFaried35) June 6, 2013
Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala told TNT's David Aldridge that he wasn't sure how this would impact his impending free agency:
Just asked Andre Iguodala how Karl firing will impact his FA decision. Answer: "Good question. Need some time to let it sink in."— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) June 6, 2013
Reggie Miller, former NBA legend and current analyst for TNT, was blown away by this news and called the Coach of the Year award a curse:
That damn COY award is a curse!!! Sad to hear the news about one of my favorite coaches (George Karl).....— Reggie Miller (@ReggieMillerTNT) June 6, 2013
Erik Spoelstra, head coach of the Miami Heat, blamed unrealistic expectations for Karl's predicament (per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports):
Erik Spoelstra was shocked by George Karl's firing and says coaches have "Unrealistic Expectations" on them. "It's tough to see," Spo said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) June 6, 2013
According to Wojnarowski, Denver will seek permission to interview Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins about its head coaching position.
Denver plans to reach out for permission to speak to Brian Shaw and Lionel Hollins soon, league source tells Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 6, 2013
As for Karl, there are multiple coaching vacancies around the league, and he should be a hot name this summer as a candidate to fill one.