What. Just. Happened?
It’s been over 12 hours since news first broke of Karl’s firing and I’m still not entirely convinced this isn’t all some crazed, sports-obsessed dream. After all, I was bedridden yesterday due to food poisoning and I could have sworn I was delusional for at least a few minutes. These things happen, right? People enter trance-like states for extended periods on a regular basis… don’t they? Can someone pinch me? PLEASE?!?!
OK, so perhaps this isn’t a fantasy. After all, the sun did rise in the east and and Spurs did win the first game of the NBA Finals. The universe is (somewhat) in order. Now, there’ll be plenty of time for reaction, opinion, analysis, etc., in the coming days. We intend to bring the heavy stuff to you, as always, but we want to make sure we do it right. Therefore, the facts must be in order. And here’s what we know thus far…
Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news that Karl was fired Thursday morning. He had these things to say regarding the news:
With one year left on his contract, Karl was pushing for an extension and ownership was unwilling to make the commitment. With a sense that Denver could be facing a season of acrimony, CEO Josh Kroenke decided to part ways with Karl.
Denver plans to reach out for permission to speak withcoach Lionel Hollins and associate head coach Brian Shaw immediately, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.
The Nuggets held a team option on Karl’s contract after the 2013-14 season that activating would’ve extended his deal another three years. The organization didn’t want to make the commitment and ultimately didn’t want to deal with a moody Karl throughout next year, sources told Y! Sports.
Nuggets management believes it can attract an elite coach with its talented, young roster.
Thehave requested permission to speak to Denver front office executive Pete D’Alessandro for their open GM job, but Kroenke has yet to grant approval, sources said. The Kroenkes are strongly considering D’Alessandro in an elevated front office role in Denver. It’s expected Josh Kroenke will take an even bigger role in shaping basketball decisions.
Reaction: This sounds like Josh Kroenke’s doing more than anything. He was the one who (it appeared) ultimately let Ujiri go and now he’s the one who (it appears) has let Karl go. Ujiri was tough; Karl was just completely shocking. In only a few years span Josh Kroenke has totally taken a hold of this team. The Nuggets fate is firmly in his hands. Only time will tell whether this is a good or bad thing, but history has repeatedly proven that too much power in one person’s hands is not usually the recipe for collective prosperity. As far as the coaching candidates go — eh. Not encouraging. Shaw is intriguing but I think there are better assistants out there to be had. No thanks on Hollins. The Nuggets do not need more mediocrity; they need greatness. Also, it’s refreshing to know management foresaw Karl as potentially “moody” had he not received another extension. The last thing Karl should be doing, after all his career accomplishments, is getting “moody” because the franchise he’s been with for 10 years didn’t gift-wrap him another extension a year before his current contract expires. It’s about time someone in the Nuggets organization said no to Karl. I just didn’t know “no” and “goodbye” were so closely related.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein had this to say about the Nuggets-Grizzlies coaching connection:
Reaction: Again — not a fan of this. Lionel Hollins has done a great job in Memphis, but the last thing the Nuggets need to do right now is replace a Hall of Fame coach with a guy who’s had some recent success with a team he should have had recent success with. If the Nuggets want to explore coaching candidates in Memphis they need look no further than assistant Dave Joerger. He’s the supposed architect of Memphis’ stingy defense. Until he came along, Memphis was a pretty average team. He’s been a great coach his whole career, and in my opinion, is the next Tom Thibodeau — only much, much younger. Let’s just put it this way: After making their first Conference Finals appearance in history, the very first thing the Grizzlies did was let teams talk to Lionel Hollins rather than extend him. Now there are already rumors they want Joerger to be the man to replace him. Bing, bang, bong. Just like that, Hollins is on the hot seat and Joerger is in line to replace him. The Grizzlies seem to know something we don’t and it’s that Dave Joerger is the real McCoy.
This line of tweets earlier in the day from former Nuggets beat writer Chris Tomasson is probably my favorite part of this whole story:
Reaction: Remember how excited you got as a kid on Christmas morning? Yeah… that. The things Kroenke has done this summer have been polarizing, completed with a haste that makes you wonder what’s going through his head. But this — this is pure gold. The fact is: The things Karl has always done, that fans have always known are kinda bogus, finally caught up to him. McGee is a certifiable knucklehead, no doubt about it, but he’s also the freakiest athlete in the NBA who’s still incredibly young and capable of maturing into a premier threat in the paint. He was NEVER going to get that opportunity to grow with Karl as head coach. Just look at J.R. Smith if you need further evidence. A few years after leaving Karl’s doghouse, he wins NBA Sixth Man of the Year. There’s no reason to think McGee isn’t in the same boat.
And Andre Miller. Andre freaking Miller. What is there to say? He had one of the most atrocious — no wait, THE MOST ATROCIOUS — postseason efforts I’ve ever seen which capped a perfectly disastrous regular season campaign that forced most Nuggets fans to excessively imbibe during games, yet George Karl thought he was God’s gift to planet Earth! For years Denver management has been too infatuated with regular season wins — after a long history of struggling to obtain them — that challenging Karl on anything likely resulted with a scolding from the future Hall of Famer followed by a week’s worth of thumb sucking while hugging their shins, rocking back and forth in the cold dark. Once again, although fans are likely having a hard time coming to grips with the reigning GM and Coach of the Year departing the franchise in a weeks span (I know I am), you have to admit how refreshing it is to finally have management who understands the game and won’t fall for Karl’s routine gimmicks like previous regimes were so accustomed to doing.
According to CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger:
Reaction: Really? REALLY?!? We’re not even a day into the second longest tenured head coach in franchise history having departed and the Nuggets already have “top targets at this point”? I just do not understand this. Why Hollins and Shaw? What have they done to separate themselves from other candidates? There are all kinds of coaches out there to be interviewed and had, yet the Nuggets have already zeroed in on two coaches and made them “top targets”? Taking your time and finding the perfect fit should take priority over a speedy hire 100 times out of 100. And did I mention how not excited I am about Hollins?
Reaction: Now that’s more like it. It’s nice to see McMillan’s name on the list. He did a great job in Portland, is still fairly young and has a defense-first mentality. Would he be a bad hire? Absolutely not. But would he be the best hire? That’s the question you have to ask yourself if you’re Josh Kroenke. What the Nuggets need right now, more than anything, is some form of long-term stability. McMillan would certainly offer that to some extent, but in an ideal world you should have no doubt that the coach you hire will be with your team just as long as Karl has been during his career with the Nuggets — except unlike Karl, he should understand how to succeed in the postseason.