As has been rumored for the better part of the season, Chris Broussard is reporting that George Karl has officially inked a three year extension as head coach of the Denver Nuggets. The move comes during a turbulent season in which Karl won his 1000th career game after returning successfully from a second bout with cancer last year.
Update: Benjamin Hochman and Chris Dempsey reveal the deal is for three years followed by three more team option years. That could mean up to a six year deal at the Nuggets’ discretion
Like many diehard fans of the Nuggets I’ve ridden the full gamut of emotions during Karl’s tenure as head coach. While he’s been erratic in his methods, George has compiled a 315-199 career record with Denver. That 61% winning percentage already places him in Doug Moe and Larry Brown territory as the most successful coaches in franchise history.
As recently as a few years ago, I became extremely vocal about criticizing Karl as his teams fumbled through season after season of disappointment despite having some of the most talented and expensive rosters in Nuggets history. On the outside it appeared difficult to see a passion for winning and striving for excellence behind Karl’s mannerisms.
However, as we sit here today after finally bidding farewell to a Carmelo era that was not meant to be, my appreciation for Karl’s career has been somewhat re-inspired by such a turbulent and ridiculous season. Rather than trying to explain it all right here, I encourage you to please revisit Jeremy’s fantastic piece of George Karl’s career and his milestone 1000th career coaching victory. It’s something that truly put things in perspective for me especially having to adjust my expectations and analysis to an entirely new Nuggets era.
My take is there are two immediate effects which benefit the Nuggets through this decision. One, the front office can now focus solely on extending Nene. While on some level I would like him to opt in to his final year and give Denver a chance to extend him under a new CBA, Nene is a player who has earned a contract extension now. In good faith the Nuggets should do whatever it takes to sign him at a reasonable price which they were able to accomplish four years ago under Mark Warkentein. With a more stable coaching situation going forward, I hope Nene feels confident he can continue his career where he wants to be while continuing to contribute as the most underrated player in basketball.
Secondly, Denver likely avoids the nuclear route of tanking and betting the house on a high draft pick down the line. I am extremely fearful of the Nuggets staying the same by choosing this course and being stuck between not good enough for a championship and not bad enough for a top three pick. However, the decision has been made and to cry about it anymore is no longer prudent. In fairness to Josh and Masai, it’s hard to leave such an era of extended success behind in favor of sucking badly for a few years in order to wait out being successful again.
If Denver is looking to keep competing with championship aspirations the next three years, they will need to do so through trades and free agency. Is he confusingly stubborn to a point that can test the sanity of Nuggets fans everywhere? Yes, he still is. But the man has a lot of guts and he’s been a winner for a long time Denver. For free agents and future Nuggets-to-be in the next great era of Denver basketball, that kind of winning pedigree is never a bad thing to have on your side.