Best Potential Candidates to Replace George Karl as Denver Nuggets Head Coach
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the team will not be bringing Karl back for the final year of his contract.
Karl will not be brought back for the final year of his contract, source tells Y! Sports. He was informed this morning.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 6, 2013
Karl was believed to be pushing for an extension, which Denver didn't want to give. The Nuggets didn't want to deal with an unhappy Karl leading into next season and thought it best to sever ties now.
Per Woj, the Nuggets believe that they can attract an "elite coach" with their roster.
Denver believes it can attract an elite coach with its roster; simply didn't want to deal with an unhappy Karl in final year of contract.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 6, 2013
Who will that elite coach be?
Whether the Nuggets will be able to attract the type of name it lusts for remains to be seen, but there are no shortage of top-notch options for them to pursue.
No. 5: Kelvin Sampson
Years Experience: N/A
Head Coaching Record: N/A
Alright, so Kelvin Sampson isn't considered elite right now. But some day down the road he could be.
The Houston Rockets assistant has already been linked to the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, two teams with young foundations. Denver finds itself in a similar situation—only it's a contender.
Sampson is credited with revamping both the Rockets' and Bucks' offenses during his stints there. I like him for his willingness to allow the Nuggets to continue to run and for his ability to instill a sense of three-point purpose in their veins.
Denver doesn't have shooters. Not consistent ones at least. Sampson doesn't need the purest of shooters, though. He'll turn mediocre outside presences into lethal three-point threats.
I'm personally of the mind that he would utilize the pick-and-roll more than Karl did as well. The Nuggets have two skilled ball-handlers in Andre Miller and Ty Lawson, and more screens need to be set so that the team can broaden its offensive horizons.
A more extensive use of the pick-and-roll can also open up more drive-and-kick opportunities, something the Nuggets need if they're to become a competent deep-ball shooting team.
Should the Nuggets be willing to take on a rookie coach who hasn't won a championship as an assistant (spoiler)?
If that ring-less assistant is Sampson, then absolutely.
No. 4: Jerry Sloan
Years Experience: 26
Head Coaching Record: 1,221-803
The Nuggets want elite, and Jerry Sloan is elite.
No one has locked him in yet; nothing appears to have caught his attention.
The Nuggets just might.
Sloan was sensational in Utah. He's a pick-and-roll genius, and Ty Lawson along with any of Denver's bigs would thrive under his calculated tutelage.
Wings like Danilo Gallinari (when he returns) and Wilson Chandler would benefit as well. Sloan's system calls for some shooters who can also drive-and-kick when the ball is taken out of the point man's hands. These Nuggets have the ability to execute to his liking.
They're also far from the egotistical maniacs Sloan may not have patience for. Youngsters have the ability to get on the wrong side of the veteran sideline meander, much like Deron Williams did. In Denver, there are no egos, no cases of detrimental bravado. There are only players looking to win as a team.
Would Sloan (finally) come out of retirement/forgo an opportunity to return to the Jazz in an unknown capacity to coach the Nuggets?
Knowing that he at least entertained the Bucks' offer, I'd sure say so.
No. 3: Brian Shaw
Years Experience: N/A
Coaching Record: N/A
Though Brian Shaw doesn't have any previous head coaching experience, he has built up quite the resume.
A number of teams are already in hot pursuit of Shaw, including the Nets, Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Clippers.
More recently, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reported that Indiana's lead assistant was "gaining momentum" for the Clippers position. Oftentimes the Clippers appear on the brink of disaster, but if they're able to re-sign Chris Paul, Shaw would have the ability to assume control of a contender.
Denver presents just as intriguing an option, though. The Nuggets have an elite point guard in Ty Lawson and a solid young foundation that the now departed Masai Ujiri helped assemble.
There may not be room for Shaw to implement the triangle offense in Denver, yet he proved to be a multifaceted sideline contributor in Indiana.
That and his winning pedigree should be enough for him to garner interest from the Nuggets.
No. 2: Lionel Hollins
Years Experience: 7
Head Coaching Record: 214-201
After coaching the Grizzlies to the Western Conference Finals, Memphis has granted Hollins permission to interview for other positions. Though he has publicly stated his desire to return to the Grizzlies, talks between the two sides have been described as "dormant."
Hollins can be outspoken at times (see the Rudy Gay trade), but he also helped turn the Memphis franchise around.
He commands respect of his locker room and holds a great influence over younger players.
Egos aren't a problem for the seven-year sideline veteran either. He worked wonders with Zach Randolph over the last four years.
His defense-first mentality would also be a great addition to an offensive-minded Nuggets faction.
Denver has already shown that its core is on the cusp of contention. Sans Karl, it just needs a coach who can help take it to the next level—a coach like Hollins.
No. 1: Jeff Van Gundy
Years Experience: 11
Head Coaching Record: 430-318
Put this man back on the sidelines—preferably in Denver.
Still working as a color analyst with ESPN, Jeff Van Gundy has proved to be a hot commodity as the NBA nears the offseason. He's drawn interest from the Nets and Clippers, and he's reportedly open to re-entering the fray for the right job.
Could the Nuggets be the right job? Yes.
Considered a hard-nosed defensive enforcer who would do anything to protect his players (ask Alonzo Mourning), Van Gundy would be one of the best fits the Nuggets could find.
Denver wasn't one of the top defensive teams in the league this past season, an area Van Gundy could improve.
I also like Van Gundy for his offense. Not known for coaching overly athletic teams, he's not opposed to running, but he also possesses the half-court savvy to help the Denver offense.
His shoot-from-the-hip, tell-it-like-it-is-no-matter-what attitude would also be valuable for Denver's younger guns, most notably JaVale McGee. He grew as a player and person under Karl, and while Van Gundy isn't known for his patience, he has the nurturing capacity to further hone the skills of a kid like McGee.
If the Nuggets can lure Van Gundy out of retirement, they should. He's elite. And with him at the helm, they'd be elite too.