George Karl talking to Memphis Grizzlies
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets surprisingly parted ways with coach George Karl on Thursday, and he instantly became a hot commodity elsewhere.
According to a person with knowledge of the talks, the Memphis Grizzlies spoke with Karl almost immediately after he was let go about the possibility that he would replace Lionel Hollins.
Hollins’ contract expires this month and it appears likely he won’t return. The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
The Grizzlies have told Hollins that he can speak with other teams and were honing in on Memphis assistant Dave Joerger as the top candidate to replace him, but their decision to wait before making that move was tied to the chance that Karl could become available. Grizzlies vice president of basketball operations Stu Lash was with Karl in Denver and holds him in the highest regard.
Karl’s contract had one year remaining, but there was a team option for next summer that would have brought him back for the following three years if that’s what the Nuggets so decided. Karl clearly wanted an answer about his long-term future now that Denver wasn’t prepared to give, and the decision was made to divorce sooner rather than later.
The Clippers were already interested in Karl and are planning to pursue him now that he is available. Yahoo! Sports first reported the Karl news, and indicated that Denver may look to Hollins or Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw as possible replacements.
Karl won the league’s Coach of the Year award after the Nuggets won a franchise-record 57 games, but Denver was upset in the first round by Golden State and the most tumultuous of offseasons ensued from there. General manager Masai Ujiri left recently to become the head personnel man in Toronto, and now Karl’s nine-year run in Denver comes to an end.
As put best by Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried in his tweet not long after the news broke, “So we lost a GM (and) now a coach what’s next?”
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