Coach Karl of the Nuggets has made NBA history right on time this year. On the last game of the year 2008, Nuggets won 114-107 over the Raptors making history for George with the distinction of becoming the 10th coach to reach 900 victories. He is well respected by most players and coaches in the NBA but he is quite humble in that he credits his assistant of 12 seasons Tim Grgurich for being a big support for him and is as surprised at his success as much as anyone. Obviously very few coaches have made this milestone so his humility may just be his way of coping with success. The numbers speak volumes, don’t they?
As a coach he won his first game on November 15, 1984 when he worked for the Cavaliers (Cleveland) and has been bouncing around for quite some time, first as coach to the Golden State Warriors (’86-88), Seattle Supersonics (’92-98), Milwaukee Bucks (’98-2003) and has been coaching the Denver Nuggets since 2005. His playing career was very short, being only two years, when he signed on to the ABA’s San Antonio Spurs right out of UNCarolina in 1973 turning down an offer to play for the New York Knicks. He became their assistant coach when they joined the NBA in 1976, then took a hiatus from the NBA coaching for the CBA’s Montana Golden Nuggets winning a Coach of the Year award twice- once in 1981 and again in 1983. When he came back to the NBA in 1984 he coached the Cleveland Cavaliers and was summarily dismissed from that team in 1986. After that it was a roundelay as he was with Golden State Warriors until 1988. Back with CBA’s Albany Patroons for a brief season he again won Coach of the Year in 1989 !
He started his first truly successful run with Seattle SuperSonics, coaching them from 1991-1998 leading them to the Finals in 1996 but unfortunately lost six to the Chicago Bulls. Nevertheless, the SuperSonics made the postseason every year while Karl coached them, winning three division titles, making or breaking the 50-win mark all seven years of his tenure with them. Ironically in 1994 they made the 63-win and then were upset in the first round by the Denver Nuggets, making an NBA first.
Induced by a better contract, he took on the Milwaukee Bucks as head coach in 1998 and turned a struggling team into steady winners through three years of work. They didn’t make the grade in 2001, however, missing the NBA Finals by one lost game. By 2002 they fell from the number one spot for the Eastern Conference and didn’t make the playoffs. He was fired after another bad season in 2003 even though the Bucks made the playoffs but with a win total slightly topping the .500 mark.
Serving as an NBA analyst for ESPN and coaching the FIBA World Championship in 2002 seemed to turn everything around for Coach Karl because on the momentum of the international basketball experience he decided to return again to the NBA to coach the Nuggets by January 27th of 2005 and revitalized the Nuggets enough for them to make it to the postseason. Enthusiasm returned to Denver, something that had not been evident since the exit of Hall-of-Famer Alex English and Sidney Schlenker as owner. Many of the draft picks made have been a direct result. Through bouts with cancer both with Karl and his son Coby these four years with the Nuggets have been an incredible journey of keeping the faith, putting in hard work and pressing on for excellence. The results speak for themselves. By the second half of the 2004-2005 season they had achieved a 32-8 record which was unprecedented for the Nuggets. As a matter of fact what George Karl has achieved with the Nuggets in these few years is one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. Just this season, he has helped this team not unknown for their injuries and health problems to 44 wins and a Northwest Division title- the Nuggets first division crown since the 1987-88 season.
On the negative side of the spectrum, December 31, 2008 proved to be a downer for an Eastern Conference player by the name of Vince Carter. Without going into the details too heavily he had to be physically escorted off the court by a team official after he received a double-technical foul against the Detroit Pistons and instead of accepting the charge, began arguing with refs and insisting on staying on court- despite Coach Lawrence Frank’s ( coach for the New Jersey Nets) attempt to control him. (Interestingly, Allen Iverson, now a Detroit Piston, did very well in this game.)
As a result of his arguing Carter was ejected from the game entirely. This is an example of how a wrong attitude in NBA Basketball can cost a player. Generally a player can be fined, but even long-term suspensions can result- as we witnessed with the Nuggets Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith back in winter 2006 against the Knicks- but expulsion from a game ought to be enough. This was not meant to be a contact sport in the way that pro football can be but sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Check out some new photos in the Nuggets’ teeming photo album for more on this momentous day.
My basket is teeming with kisses for you all !
The Castle Lady