George Karl Was Reportedly at Odds With Nuggets Management Prior to Firing

by June 06, 2013

According to multiple published reports, George Karl’s surprising firing today wasn’t just caused by the team’s refusal to give the reigning NBA Coach of the Year a contract extension as he entered the final year of his deal. Denver Nuggets management had problems with Karl’s philosophy and approach, which didn’t align with the front-office’s wishes. Per the Denver Post and Fox Sports: “As one NBA executive told me: The Kroenkes don’t do leverage. They blow up the bridge of negotiations. ‘Then,’ the NBA exec added, ‘Stan Kroenke comes and blows up your house.’ Boom. Karl is gone. After a 57-win regular season, the opening-round playoff loss to Golden State was devastating. But getting beat by the Warriors wasn’t as upsetting as how Denver lost. During the playoff series, center JaVale McGee averaged 18.5 minutes per game, mirroring his meager playing time of the regular season. His first starting assignment of the season did not arrive until the Nuggets trailed 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. Denver’s front office did not pay McGee $10 million per season to eat popcorn on the bench. Karl stubbornly refused to develop McGee, insisting to me that a coach’s focus is winning the next game on the schedule. That’s not only ego-driven and short-sighted, it was a source of friction between Karl and his superiors long before trouble arrived against the (Golden State) Warriors, when McGee forlornly told me after a practice in San Francisco the playoff series didn’t work for him, offensively or defensively. […] Even though the Nuggets were coming off a season in which they set a team record for wins by going 57-25, Karl was falling out of favor after nine seasons in Denver. Sources Thursday offered some of the reasons for that. The Nuggets, seeded third in the West, flamed out in the first round of the playoffs, losing 4-2 to No. 6 Golden State. Management blamed Karl for the loss, believing he panicked by trying to match up with the Warriors’ small-ball approach after they had lost David Lee due to injury in Game 1. The Nuggets all season had been able to beat up teams in the paint, and they moved away from that style. […] Even before the Golden State series, management had some friction with Karl. The Nuggets had signed center JaVale McGee to a four-year, $44 million contract last summer. Team brass wanted Karl to use McGee, 25, more so he would develop. However, Karl insisted on starting center Kosta Koufos, whom management regarded as a backup. McGee got only an average of 18.1 minutes per game to 22.4 for Koufos. Management wanted Karl to develop players more for the future than Karl wanted to do. Team brass would have been willing for the Nuggets to sacrifice some regular-season games for development. Along those lines, management also believed Karl used Andre Miller, 37, at point guard more than it was believed he should. Miller averaged 26.2 minutes, taking time away from promising rookie Evan Fournier, who averaged 11.3. Then Fournier surprisingly started four games in the playoffs when he wasn’t ready.”