As you may have noticed, I have remained silent on the early playoff exit of the Nuggets. You could take this as a sign I quit following them, but unfortunately that is not the case. I actually followed them more closely this year than probably any other time. But I also recognize that I have limited use as a basketball analyst so I have learned to keep my mouth shut.
No comments on my football analysis please.
That close inspection however also led me to the realization in the last month of the regular season that this team was not going to match last year’s thrilling run to the Western Conference Finals. They just didn’t have the same drive this year – too many injuries, inconsistent play, etc.
Above that, they also lost their leader when George Karl began cancer treatments. Adrian Dantley seems like a nice guy (or is it seemed? I think he died about February14th) but he just never got the Nuggets to play with the passion they had for Karl.
Dantley’s failure at getting much of anything out of the Nuggets made me respect the job George had done even more while making me chuckle to think back about the below post. As you will see shortly, I wasn’t always a believer in Karl.
Written two years ago after a first round sweep by the Lakers, I decided it was time for Karl to go. Thankfully Nuggets management ignored me on firing Karl (though I must admit my prescription for the on-court savior that Nuggets needed was pretty close to what they got from Chauncey Billups the following November and what I list as the main problems for the Nuggets – lack of defense and playing to the level of the opponent – remain to this day).
However, I am not re-posting to make fun of how big of an idiot I am (that should be pretty self-evident and there are plenty of posts already up that demonstrate that to an abundance) but rather in the wake of the Cavs loss to the hands of the Celtics I thought it would be interesting to throw Mike Brown against my criteria and see if he deserves to keep his job.
My opinion? Under the by-laws of the Schottenheimer factor: Brown should go.
Tapping your Inner-Donald
I gave myself 72 hours to cool down before putting anything on the record.
So now three nights after watching the Nuggets go down in four straight games to the Lakers, I feel it is the appropriate time to discuss the question on every Nugget fan’s mind:
Should George Karl be fired?
I don’t want to come off like some crazy sportswriter whose first instinct when a team does poorly is to yell ‘fire the coach’ from every rooftop (<cough> Skip Bayless <cough>). But after investing more nights over the last year watching the NBA and the Nuggets than the last decade combined, the odds are high that emotion would override any logical argument I could make. With Avery Johnson going down (and Mike D’Antoni possibly being the next to fall), I took a step back and decided to try and look at this rationally. What should really be the criteria for firing a coach?
Here then, is my attempt at categorizing the offenses that should result in a coach being shown the door. For the record not every example cited has resulted in firing, it is just my opinion of whether firing would be justified.
Category One – The Grady Little
Category One are offenses that are completely made by the coach and have a direct impact on the team winning games: game planning and in-game decisions. Obviously many of these are done in the course of an actual game, but regardless of when the action taken there is a direct and obvious connection to the team’s losing. Examples include:
- Avery Johnson changing the starting line-up of the best regular season team in the NBA when playing the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 2007 playoffs.
- Grady Little leaving Pedro Martinez in one inning too long in the 2003 AL Championship Series
- Any NFL coach who started Jeff George and/or Vinnie Testaverde at quarterback
Category Two – The Mike Ditka
Category Two covers personnel moves personally led or championed by the coach that result in catastrophic team performance.
- Cam Cameron selecting a wide receiver/punt returner (with a bad foot) at the tenth overall pick in the NFL draft for a team coming off of a 6-10 season with an aging defense, weak offensive line and no quarterback.
- Mike Ditka trading away an entire draft worth of picks to draft Ricky Williams
- Shanahan, Mike: 2004-2007 (sorry, couldn’t resist)
Category Three – The Marvin Lewis
Category Three includes all programs in which the number of off-field incidents is so great and consistent, that it illustrates an obvious lack of control by the head coach.
- Marvin Lewis and the eight, nine, ten…whatever the number is this week…arrests of Bengals players.
- Barry Switzer and his quarterback/coke dealer Charles Thompson at Oklahoma
- What’s that? What did you say? Bobby Bowden?!? How dare you, sir! How dare you!
Category Four – The Marty Schottenheimer
Category Four is reserved for perennially underachieving teams. Teams that never performed as well as their talent level would indicate they should, whether it was due to poorly designed schemes, chemistry problems or teams just plain quitting.
- Marty Schottenheimer – Let’s just say that Norv Turner got more out of the Chargers in the playoffs than Marty did.
- Joe Torre’s consistently had the most (high priced) talent in the majors and yet they haven’t won a World Series since 2000.
- George Karl – how many titles did he win with Gary Payton? How about the number of playoff series he won with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Yeah, exactly.
On the opposite side of the coin, are offenses that don’t warrant a pink slip:
- Personnel moves not coach-led. See, D’Antoni, Mike and O’Neal, Shaq
- A short slump in the course of the season – only one person loses their jobs when this happens – Pat Riley but that’s because he quits.
- Obvious chemistry problems – Did Phil Jackson warrant the blame for the Shaq/Kobe feud? Ok, but definitely not all of the blame.
So there you go, definitive proof that under Category Four, it is completely within Stan Kroenke’s right to fire George Karl. I don’t blame Karl completely for the underachieving Nuggets. Despite their immense talent they have never found that on-court leader who can step up in crunch team and guide the team. A.I. was brought in to play that role (presumably) but it is clear after all those years of having to be a one-man show in Philly that is his always going to be his fall-back position. He can’t lead a team; he can only try to take over.
However, after 4 years, Karl was never able to get this team to buy into his program, they never played defense consistently and probably the least discussed aspect of their game was their penchant for playing to the level of their opponent. They could beat anyone in the league (except the Lakers, apparently) but then had the tendency to lose games a 50-win team shouldn’t (see late season losses to the Kings at home and then at the Sonics or the mid-season road trip that saw them lose at the Bulls and Bucks on consecutive nights).
Sorry George, I have been a big supporter since you came to Denver, but it is time.