NBA coaching legend George Karl was introduced as the 19th head coach in Nuggets history on Jan. 27, 2005.
The 13th-winningest coach in NBA annals, Karl has amassed more than 700 wins in his 17 seasons in the NBA. In fact, of the 12 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 12-straight seasons. His teams have captured five division titles and have qualified for the playoffs 13 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), compiling an overall record of 708-499 (.587).
Karl has a well-earned reputation for quickly turning teams around. 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 seasons.
During Karl’s tenure in Seattle, the Sonics averaged 59 wins per season and won more games (357) than any team in the league except the Bulls. He led the Sonics to three 60-win seasons, 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 Nuggets coaching consultant 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 with 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.