George Karl was introduced as the 19th head coach in Nuggets history on Jan. 27, 2005 and subsequently engineered one of the greatest turnarounds in NBA history.
When he assumed head coaching duties, the Nuggets were 17-25 and stood in 11th place in the Western Conference – a full six games out of the playoffs. Karl led the Nuggets to a 32-8 (.800) record and a seventh seed in the postseason. His winning percentage is the best in NBA history for a coach that took over in the middle of the season (minimum 20 games). The Nuggets went 25-4 after the All-Star break, the fifth-best post-All-Star break record ever in the NBA.
This past season, Karl guided an injury-riddled Nuggets team to 44 wins and a Northwest Division title – the club’s first division crown since 1987-88. He became the fifth coach in NBA history to lead at least three different teams to division titles.
During the 2004-05 season, Karl was named Western Conference Coach of the Month for February and March and finished fifth in voting for NBA Coach of the Year, receiving 10 first place votes. He has earned nine Coach of the Month honors tying Phil Jackson for second-most in NBA history.
The 12th-winningest coach in NBA annals, Karl has amassed 784 wins in his 18 seasons in the NBA. In fact, of the 11 men ahead of him on the all-time wins list, only four: Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan have a better winning percentage. On March 22, 2003, he recorded his 700th career win in just 1,195 games. Only five coaches (Jackson, Riley, Auerbach, Sloan and Don Nelson) reached 700 wins in fewer games.
Karl has not posted a losing record in 14-straight seasons. His teams have captured six division titles and have qualified for the playoffs 15 times. He has led three teams to the conference finals, including the 1996 Seattle SuperSonics, who lost in six games to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Prior to joining the Nuggets, Karl served as head coach for the Milwaukee Bucks (1998-03), the SuperSonics (1991-98), the Golden State Warriors (1986-88) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (1984-86).
Karl had a well-earned reputation for quickly turning teams around before working his magic in Denver. In his first year in Cleveland, he led the Cavaliers to a 12-game improvement over the previous year and their first trip to the playoffs in seven years. In his first year at Golden State, the Warriors made a 12-game improvement and not only made the postseason for the first time in nine years, but advanced to the conference semifinals. In his debut in Seattle, he inherited a 20-20 club and guided them to a 27-15 record the rest of the year. In Milwaukee, the Bucks winning percentage improved from .439 to .560 in his first year (which was the lockout-shortened ’99-00 campaign) and they made the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
During Karl’s tenure in Seattle, the Sonics averaged 59 wins per season and won 357 games – second only to Chicago during that span. He led the Sonics to three 60-win season, had just one losing month and never had a losing streak longer than three games. Only three coaches have led their teams to more 60-win seasons in NBA history: Pat Riley (seven), Phil Jackson (six) and K.C. Jones (four).
In five seasons in Milwaukee, Karl led the Bucks to a record of 205-173 and four playoff berths, highlighted in 2001 by the team’s first trip to the conference finals since 1986.
Karl broke into coaching as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs (ABA) under current assistant coach Doug Moe. He landed his first head coaching position with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA in 1980 and went on to become one of the most successful coaches in that league’s history. A three-time CBA Coach of the Year (1981, ’83 and ’91), Karl compiled a 176-66 (.727) record in five CBA seasons. He led the Albany Patroons to a league record 50-6 mark in 1990-91, including a perfect 28-0 at home. He also coached two years in Spain for Real Madrid.
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.
After coaching in Milwaukee, Karl served as an NBA analyst for ESPN.
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.
Karl has three children – daughters Kelci and Kaci Grace and son Coby, a guard at Boise State University.