I promised some additional thoughts on the George Karl contract extension. There are two issues with the one year, $4.5 million extension Karl and the Denver Nuggets agreed to last week. First, should George Karl coach the Denver Nuggets next season and secondly, is $4.5 million too much or too little?
With the progress the Denver Nuggets have made under George Karl, earning their first appearance in the Western Conference Finals in 24 seasons and they, currently legitimate contenders and in second place in a competitive Western Conference, I certainly believe he deserves to coach here until it is clear that he is not physically able to do the job, the team is obviously backsliding or Phil Jackson or Greg Popovich call Mark Warkentien and ask for a job.
I was never of the opinion that Karl should have been sent packing primarily when that movement was at its peak two seasons ago, because there was no one that made sense as a replacement. That may not sound like a ringing endorsement, but now in 2009-10 I think it is clear that sticking with him was the right choice.
My biggest issue with him was he seemed to have lost his fire and was very passive. I cannot blame him either as dealing with cancer, both his and Coby’s, can put what is important into perspective. (I want to point out right now that the following is speculative although Karl touches on the increased focus he wanted to give to his family in interviews here – a must read piece from 5280 - and here.) Karl talked openly about some of his regrets as a father and he did his best to correct some issues in that area. It makes sense that basketball would have seemed somewhat trivial until he was able to get those other priorities in place. I believe now that Karl has dealt with his personal life, he is able to once again delve into basketball with a passion while knowing how to keep it from taking over his life.
As far as the money, Karl is still behind coaches like Phil Jackson, Popovich, Larry Brown, Doc Rivers, Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson and most likely Stan Van Gundy who just agreed to an extension to a contract that paid him $4.0 million a season. Karl is on the top ten wins list of all time, and is coaching a team that is potentially on the verge of their greatest season of all time. Even for a team that is trying to keep costs down, the Nuggets are fair when it comes to compensation and $4.5 million is fair for a coach with Karl’s credentials. Not to mention, Karl is currently slightly underpaid at $3.0 million (even though I hate to consider anyone who makes $3 million a year underpaid).
If you were looking for something scathing, sorry to let you down, but this is another level headed move by the Nuggets that will only help to stabilize the franchise as they pursue their first ever NBA Finals appearance.