The Denver Nuggets fired George Karl on Thursday.
What does a coach have to do?
Karl's Nuggets, the third-youngest team in the NBA, a team without an All-Star, won 57 games in the regular season. It was the Nuggets' best NBA season, and, accordingly, Karl was voted the league's Coach of the Year, hardly a firing offense.
So, this firing is weird, although Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri left Denver for the Toronto Raptors and when a GM leaves, the coach is vulnerable. The coach is especially vulnerable when his team is favored but gets eliminated by the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.
I admit I have a personal interest in Karl, 62, a two-time cancer survivor. He coached the Warriors when he and I were young men. And although I never become friends with the people I cover, I like Karl a whole lot. He is an irresistible guy.
Years ago, he got so angry at Warriors center Joe Barry Carroll for not playing hard, he ripped the top doors off Carroll's cubicle in the Warriors' locker room. Karl was so worked up over the whole thing he took me into the deserted locker room a day later and showed me the patched-up doors — not so well patched-up — and re-enacted the whole scene. It was like an instant replay.
I would like to add that J.B. Carroll didn't play hard — or maybe it seemed he didn't play hard. But looking back down the corridor of years, I think he's a nice guy and I hope his life turned out OK.
During the Warriors-Nuggets series, Mark Jackson called the Nuggets "hit men" and said they played dirty, and that surely pointed at Karl.
I immediately phoned Karl to get his reaction. In the past, he would have gone off on Jackson. But he never called back.
Before the next game's pregame media get-together, he took me aside and apologized for not calling. He told me the Nuggets are a "no-noise" outfit — meaning they don't argue through the media. He thought it wise not to discuss Jackson's accusations. That showed growth.