After winning NBA’s Coach of the Year award, George Karl probably was expecting a raise. Instead he heard, “Congratulations. You’re fired.”
The Denver Nuggets fired Karl Thursday, despite leading the Nuggets to their best regular season in franchise history (57-25). Karl’s system also sported the best offense in the league, averaging 106.1 points per game. However, the Nuggets had a disappointing first-round exit in the playoffs, after they were bounced by the Golden State Warriors in six games.
Karl posted a 423-257 record in his nine-year tenure with the Nuggets. Karl led the Nuggets to the playoffs every year, but they were mostly “one and done”. In the nine playoff appearances, Karl and the Nuggets made it the past the first round once, which was a run to the Western Conference Final in 2009.
Originally, I thought this was an unusual move. Bleacher Report showed me that this has become quite the norm. According to Bleacher Report, six of the last nine winners of the award have been fired within the next two years of winning the honor. Bleacher Report also said it rivals such curses such as the “Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx” and the “Madden Cover Jinx”. According to ESPN, Karl had been aware of the curse. ESPN reported Karl had joked about it saying he did not want to win the award because it created “outsized” expectations. The joke was on Karl.
Karl may not be unemployed for long. ESPN said the Los Angeles Clippers and Karl had a mutual interest. USA Today reported that Karl is talking with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nuggets went from contenders to essentially rebuilding mode. They canned their coach, and lost their general manager to the Toronto Raptors. The Nuggets’ move is probably unpopular with their fans, but there is still hope.
In 1989, the Chicago Bulls fired Doug Collins, even though he led them to the Conference Finals. They replaced with him with an assistant named Phil Jackson. Six championships later, the Bulls looked like geniuses. It will not be an easy task, since the Nuggets lost both a coach, and the guy who put together this team. Maybe the Nuggets found the coach who can take this team to the next level. Or maybe this ends up being a bonehead move and the players turn on the team. I understand Karl is old–62 years old–and has coached for 25 years. However, if you look at his résumé, I believe Karl deserved a little more respect, and should have been able to leave on his own terms.