DENVER — In the midst of calls for his job, George Karl made history for himself and his franchise when he was named the NBA’s coach of the year Wednesday.
It’s the first time the 25th-year coach has received the honor, and it’s only the second time in Denver Nuggets history that one of the team’s coaches has gotten the nod. Doug Moe was the last Nuggets coach to do so, winning in 1988.
Karl ran away with the award, too.
A panel of sportswriters and broadcasters votes on the honor, and they gave the Nuggets coach 62 first-place votes. He was followed by Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat with 24 votes. The New York Knicks’ Mike Woodson finished third and the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich was fourth.
Karl led his bunch to 57 wins during the 2012-2013 season, the highest total for a Nuggets team since the franchise joined in the NBA in 1975. The team also led the league with 38 home wins, a mark that set another franchise record.
And Karl notched all of those accomplishments despite coaching a team without a true superstar. No one Nugget averaged more than 18 points per game on a team that led the NBA in scoring, averaging over 106 points per contest.
“I am honored and energized to represent coaching and be their ambassador as coach of the year and continue to symbolize the great coaching there is in the NBA,” Karl said in a statement. “There are probably seven or eight guys who are deserving of it and another 10 or 15 other coaches who have done a great job and aren’t getting any recognition.”
Karl is no stranger to regular season success, having logged 21 straight non-losing seasons. It’s string that ties him with Phil Jackson for the longest streak of winning seasons league history. However, matching Jackson in the playoffs has been feat that has eluded Karl, and appears to be the reason why many are calling for his job.
Karl has a .436 winning percentage in the playoffs. Jackson has a .688 mark.
Unfortunately for Karl, those playoff woes continued this season, as the Nuggets were knocked out of the postseason by the Golden State Warriors last week. It’s the team’s eighth first round exit in nine seasons, and it brings Karl’s playoff record to 21-38 in Denver.
A day after the Nuggets’ final loss of the season, over 1,300 voted in a poll that asked if the Nuggets should fire Karl. Just over 52 percent said “yes,” and just under 48 percent said “no.”