Throwback Thursday - George Karl
He has compiled more than 1,000 victories, made 21 playoff appearances and put together 20 winning seasons. Among coaches in any professional sport, few are more accomplished than Denver Nuggets coach George Karl.
Entering his 25th NBA season and ninth with the Nuggets, Karl ranks seventh in NBA history with 1,076 career victories. Of the six men who have won more games, only three Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan have a better winning percentage than Karl (.595). Karl has also notched 78 career playoff victories, good for 10th all-time, and earned 10 Coach of the Month honors, which is tied for the fourth-most in NBA history.
Since joining the Nuggets on Jan. 27, 2005, Karl has overseen one of the most successful eras in franchise history.
In seven-plus seasons, his 366 wins are second-most to Doug Moe in the teams NBA history, while his .612 winning percentage is unmatched. His streak of eight straight postseason appearances is the second only to Moe's nine consecutive (1982-90), and Denvers run of four straight 50-win seasons from 2007-2011 is the longest such streak in team history. The Nuggets are one of just three NBA teams (Dallas and San Antonio) to reach the postseason in each of the past nine seasons.
Despite having one of the leagues youngest rosters, Karl guided the Nuggets to a 38-28 record in 2011-12. In the process, he recorded his 20th straight non-losing season tied with Jackson (1989-90 to 2010-11) for the longest streak in NBA history. The Nuggets led the league in scoring and assists, and nearly upset the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference playoffs before falling in seven games.
The 2010-11 season showcased Karl's skills as a coach. Despite injuries to several key players, he guided the Nuggets to a 32-25 record at the All-Star break, and Denver won 18 of its final 25 games following a three-team 13-player trade that brought five new players to the Mile High City. Karl reached the 1,000-win mark with a victory in Toronto on Dec. 10, 2010, and he received a contract extension on March 8, 2011.
The 2009-10 season was one of highs and lows. While guiding Denver to an overall record of 53-29 and its second straight Northwest Division title, Karl was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. He made the diagnosis public two days after coaching the Western Conference at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game and continued to coach the Nuggets for three weeks while going through intense radiation and chemotherapy treatment. Karl did not return to the bench after a March 16 victory over Washington; Denver went 7-7 in its final 14 regular-season games and lost to the Utah Jazz in six games during the first round of the playoffs. On July 15, Karl received the Jimmy V Comeback Award for perseverance at the 2010 ESPYs.
In 2008-09 season, Karl guided the Nuggets to arguably the best season in team history. With an overall record of 54-28, Denver claimed the Northwest Division title and tied the team record for most wins in a season. As the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, the Nuggets defeated New Orleans and Dallas to advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1985. Denver lost to the eventual NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
After being hired as Denver's coach in January 2005, Karl engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history. The Nuggets were 17-25 and stood in 11th place in the Western Conference six games out of the playoffs but they went 32-8 and rallied to capture the No. 7 seed in the West. The .800 winning percentage is the best in NBA history for a coach that took over in the middle of the season (minimum 20 games). Karl was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for February and March and finished fifth in voting for NBA Coach of the Year.
Prior to joining the Nuggets, Karl served as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks (1998-03), Seattle SuperSonics (1991-98), Golden State Warriors (1986-88) and Cleveland Cavaliers (1984-86). During his coaching career, Karlâ€™s players have made 27 All-Star appearances, earned 16 All-NBA honors, made 11 All-Defensive teams and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
In 2001, Karl was selected as the head coach of USA Basketball's 2002 World Championship Team that competed in the 2002 FIBA World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis.
As a player, Karl averaged 6.5 ppg and 3.0 apg over 264 games and five seasons between the ABA and NBA. He attended the University of North Carolina, where as a junior, he helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1972 NCAA Final Four, and during his sophomore season (1970-71), helped UNC to an NIT title. Although drafted by the New York Knicks in the fourth round of the 1973 NBA Draft, he signed with the San Antonio Spurs of the ABA.