Nuggets Fire Karl; Kroenke's Replacements For Coach, GM Will Steer Team's Future
Nuggets President Josh Kroenke on Thursday fired coach George Karl in a "bizarre ending to sometimes celebrated, sometimes complicated nine seasons in Denver," according to Benjamin Hochman of the DENVER POST. Sources said that Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins are the "early front-runners as possible replacements." Kroenke said that the "combination of Karl pushing for a contract extension, and the uncertainty surrounding Karl's possible interest" in the Clippers job this week "led him to believe it was best to go in another direction." Karl's agent, Warren LeGarie, said, "I have high praise for the way Josh Kroenke handled this situation -- he was always sincere and straightforward. And when it came time to make a decision, he made one" (DENVER POST, 6/7). In Denver, Christopher Dempsey writes Kroenke with "one big push ... swept the NBA coach of the year, the second-winningest coach in franchise history, out the door" (DENVER POST, 6/7). NBA.com's David Aldridge wrote Kroenke is "taking a major gamble by firing Karl." While Karl has gotten a "lot of heat locally for the Nuggets' inability to go very far in the postseason on his watch," he remains "highly respected" nationally. It is "hard to see" how Kroenke is "going to find a better coach." Meanwhile, Kroenke is "not expected to take control of basketball operations, having just been named" president of the Avalanche (NBA.com, 6/6). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes the Nuggets took a "bold step in the right direction toward an NBA championship on Thursday." Kroenke "finally stood up to all the garbage spewed by George Karl." Kiszla: "Karl tried to leverage his 57-win season and his coach of the year trophy into a new contract. Guess what? The Kroenke family does not succumb to leverage" (DENVER POST, 6/7).
BACK TO THE FUTURE: SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote the Nuggets "peaked because they benefited from two of the NBA's best leaders," in Karl and former GM Masai Ujiri, now with the Raptors, and "now they look ahead to next year from an entirely new and unpredictable perspective." While the "disappointment of the playoffs surely played a role in Karl's firing, the more important factor appears to be the Nuggets' imminent decision on a GM, and the team's pursuit of a new identity going forward." In addition to VP/Basketball Operations Pete D'Alessandro, who is the "leading in-house candidate, the most likely replacements for Ujiri" include Wizards VP/Basketball Administration Tommy Sheppard and Bucks Assistant GM Jeff Weltman (SI.com, 6/6). In Sacramento, Jason Jones notes the Kings asked the Nuggets for "permission to speak" with D'Alessandro about replacing outgoing President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie. The Nuggets as of Thursday night "had not granted the Kings permission." The Nuggets not making an offer to keep Ujiri is "reason to believe they might allow D'Alessandro to leave if another team makes him an attractive offer" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/7).