In a matter of weeks the Denver Nuggets have gone from an NBA Western Conference playoff appearance to being without a General Manager or a Head Coach. Former GM Masaj Ujiri left the franchise to return north to take the same job with the Toronto Raptors, the franchise that gave him a start in the league as an assistant general manager.
According to multiple reports, 2013 NBA Coach of the Year George Karl has been fired this morning. Karl was in the final year of his current contract and desired an extension which presumably would ensure he would finish his coaching career in the Mile High City.
Given these developments, the question is obvious:
Where do the Denver Nuggets go from here?
It’s one already on players’ minds:
The NBA coaching market is as volatile as ever, when even playoff appearances and 50-win seasons aren’t enough to ensure job security if other circumstances don’t allow for it. Former Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro was terminated, most believe, due to Chris Paul’s insistence Owner Donald Sterling make the move. Talented, but under-the-radar Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has been allowed to talk to other teams because Memphis would not meet his initial demands for a raise which are justified given the Grizzlies’ rise over the past few seasons. Regardless, Hollins has expressed a desire to stay in Memphis, but this could change with the right offer.
The coaching carousel always spins, but the Denver Nuggets now have twice the important decisions to make that other franchises have in securing a GM and Head Coach that can work in tandem and ensure the team doesn’t slip behind in a Western Conference that gets tougher, and deeper with each season.
It’s possible Hollins and Del Negro could become quick candidates in Denver.
If the Nuggets desire someone to get them over the hump, Hollins could well be the guy. He arguably took the least talented team — at least on paper — in the Western Conference deep into the playoffs without noticeable star power. In Denver, he would have a similar situation.
The bigger issue that faces the Nuggets is one of public perception. If they were not willing to negotiation with a Coach of the Year to ensure his long-term future, will any first-tier coaching candidates be interested in the job?
As for George Karl, don’t worry about him much.
The Nuggets have, in fact, done several other teams now in the job hunt a huge favor. Karl is well-respected throughout the league and won’t have any trouble finding a new job if that’s his desire. It’s just as possible he accepts a media position and walks away from the sidelines for now.
Either way, our bet is he is employed again by this time next week at the latest.
The Denver Nuggets had better hope their front office and basketball situation is firmed up by that time as well, or tweets like Kenneth Faried’s may become the rule rather than the exception.