I called former Denver Nuggets coach George Karl at his home last week and we chatted about a number of things; including the possibility of him returning to the NBA sidelines.
The 62-year-old Karl was frank about his desire to lead an NBA team again.
“I'd love to coach one more time,” said Karl while his daughter, Kaci, was playing in the background. “My plan was to coach three of four more years in Denver and then ride off into the sunset.”
Karl coached the Nuggets for nine seasons; the longest stint of any of the five clubs he directed in a long and storied career.
The Nuggets made the playoffs in all of Karl's seasons, advancing to the Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.
But apparently Karl's five 50-plus win seasons with the Nuggets and career regular season winning percentage of .599 wasn't good enough for Nuggets ownership. Neither were his 22 playoffs appearances, 21 winning seasons and 1,211 victories (regular season and playoff).
The Nuggets, instead, focused on Karl's failures in the playoffs. His Denver teams lost in the first round nine times. They fired him last June with one year remaining on his contract.
Denver hired Karl on Jan. 27, 2005. He orchestrated one of the most successful eras in Nuggets history. He had a regular-season record of 423-257 with the Nuggets, which ranks second in franchise history to Doug Moe (432).
Karl was named the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Nuggets to a team-record 57 games and the No. 3 seed in the West.
Karl, while considered a brilliant motivator, strategist and evaluator of talent, has a long history of having his teams bow out of the playoffs early. Six other times his clubs lost in the first round. The only time he reached the Finals was with the Seattle Supersonics in 1996. They lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in six games.
So, how are the Nuggets doing these days, you ask? At last check they were 27-36 and in fourth place in the Northwest Division. They are 10 games out of a playoff spot.
I am a Karl fan. I love the fact that his Nuggets teams were fun to watch and competitive. I appreciated that they were in the hunt for a division title nearly every season. I looked forward to cheering them on in the playoffs.
It is said that coaches are hired to be fired. But I believe Karl should still be coaching the Nuggets. As a fan, I would much rather have my team win 50 to 60 games every season and advance to the playoffs than to hope for a great season every now and then.
Sure, it would be nice of the Nuggets played for a championship. But the NBA, probably more than any of the four major sports, has been dominated by a handful of teams for much of the past 35 seasons. Since 1980, six teams (Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, Detroit and Miami) have combined to 30 championships. It looks like Miami might win its third consecutive title this season.
The odds are pretty good that Karl will be back coaching an NBA team in the next year or two. And I would be willing to guess that he will have that team competing for a championship in a very short time. I just wish he was still coaching the Nuggets.