George Karl’s Denver Nuggets won 57 games last season. Shortly thereafter, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year. And not long after that, he was fired, speeding the usual timetable for such doom by at least a year during a spring when 50-plus game winners Lionel Hollins and Vinny Del Negro also were fired.
ESPN has hired Karl, who in a recent teleconference call previewing the season discussed a wide range of topics. Here are five pertinent questions the network’s new commentator was asked and answered:
Q: As you well know, there are 13 new coaches this season. What’s behind all these changes?
A: When you have three coaches that won 57, 56, 56 get dismissed and move on, it’s just difficult to understand. You have nine new coaches that have never coached an NBA game. And I’m not saying that there’s not nine qualified assistant coaches that couldn’t have become good head coaches. But I just think the whole puzzle right now, it’s too much. It’s too much change.
I can’t deny there’s a lot of coaches, including myself, that are trying to understand why this is happening.
Q: Is this the year the Clippers finally own L.A.?
A: They’re the celebration of L.A. right now, and they deserve to be. That organization for most the last 20 years has been maligned for doing not very much or anything at all. They went out this summer and probably knocked a grand slam. Their team has energy and karma right now.
But people forget: They won 16 games in a row, didn’t lose a game in the month of December last year. Everybody thought they were there last year. But they’re a young team as far as winning in the playoffs. Whatever they do in the regular season, they’re going to be graded on how they perform in the playoffs.
Q: You coached him in Denver: What about Golden State adding Andre Iguodala?
A: There’s probably not a better team for Andre than Golden State as far as his personality. Andre loves a team to play as a team. The only thing he has had problems with in his career was when teams wanted him to score 20 points. Golden State doesn’t need to him score 20 points. They need him to do everything that he does at a high level.
I like Golden State a lot. Their room for growth is out of sight. I think Golden State is going to be playing for home-court advantage come April.
Q: What must OKC do to get back to the NBA Finals?
A: My big thing is [Russell] Westbrook’s health. They haven’t replaced [James) Harden and Harden has probably become the No. 1 playmaker and they miss the playmaker that makes the team happen. I wish they would win more games because they were a team rather than just so much offensive talent with Durant or Westbrook or the three ball. They don’t win enough games playing as a unit, with unity and harmony.