Could hiring George Karl be the final frontier for the Clippers to become an NBA Finals contender?
By L.A. TIMESFS West
It’s no longer a blah summer for free agents not named Chris Paul or Dwight Howard.
One of the best coaching minds in NBA history just became available, which should prompt the
Clippers to wrap their head around the possibilities.
Hiring George Karl would be the final frontier for the Clippers to become a Finals contender.
A big-time team needs a heavyweight coach, and Karl certainly qualifies after unexpectedly coming onto the market Thursday when the Denver Nuggets inexplicably fired the coach of the year in the wake of squabbles over a contract extension.
Karl, 62, has a sage voice and a soothing presence that would provide the kind of gravitas an immature team such as the Clippers needs. One of his catch phrases is “teamness,” a term Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could find useful.
He knows how to formulate an offense built for triple digits, his Nuggets averaging a league-high 106.1 points last season despite not having one All-Star on their roster. Imagine what he could do with Paul and Griffin.
The guy wins. He has compiled a .599 winning percentage and has guided his teams to the playoffs in 22 of his 25 seasons as a head coach, taking the Seattle SuperSonics to the Finals in 1996 and the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals in 2009.
Oh, and as a bonus, Karl really hates the Lakers. His quips could be just the thing to nudge the local Hallway Rivalry into America’s living rooms.
Of course, there are a few excuses the Clippers could use to rule Karl out, so let’s discredit them now:
• He’ll cost too much money. That’s funny coming from a franchise that will pay the underperforming Jordan $22.4 million over the next two seasons.
• He doesn’t advance far enough in the playoffs. It’s true that Karl’s teams made it past the first round only once in his nine seasons in Denver, including an upset this season by the Golden State Warriors. But Karl hasn’t had the kind of roster the Clippers have since leading the SuperSonics of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton to within two victories of an NBA title.
• He’s not Paul’s first choice. He should be, if Paul wants to win a title in the next two years.
The Clippers’ other candidates are flyweights by comparison.
Byron Scott’s teams have made the playoffs four times in 13 seasons.
Alvin Gentry, the sequel, just isn’t very appealing given the first go-around.
Brian Shaw might be good … in five years. Does a team built to win now really want to wait for the kind of on-the-job training a longtime assistant will need in his first head coaching gig?
Lionel Hollins and Jeff Van Gundy are good candidates.
Karl is a great one.
The franchise that has suffered through a who’s-nobody list of coaches including Don Casey, Bob Weiss and Mike Schuler has a chance to hire a legend.
It’s time to let Karl take Lob City to unforeseen heights.