Coby joins Nuggets amid dad’s cancer battle
Coby Karl wants his chance with the Denver Nuggets to be more than a heartwarming tale.
The son of Nuggets coach George Karl, who is battling throat and neck cancer, was signed Sunday by Denver.
It’s a generous gesture, for sure. But Coby Karl is hoping to show that he earned this spot, and it’s more than just a gift to his ailing dad.
“I know that’s going to be out there,” Coby Karl said after working out with center Brian Butch, who was also signed. “But that’s the last thing I want it to be. As a basketball player, I’d like to think my skills have gotten me here.”
Still, he can’t wait for the day his dad returns to coaching, and subs him into a game.
Now that will be something memorable.
“It’s been one of his goals, to coach me,” Coby Karl said. “If that’s what helps my father recover, that’s great.”
George Karl has been fighting cancer for the past two months and recently completed an intense six-week regimen of chemotherapy.
It’s been an arduous ordeal for George Karl, who had to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach because the efforts to kill the tumor caused mouth and throat sores that made swallowing food too painful. He’s also dropped weight.
The Nuggets coach hasn’t been on the sideline since a March 16 win over Washington. Assistant Adrian Dantley has taken over the Nuggets in his absence as the team remains in the hunt for one of the top seeds in the Western Conference.
And while there’s no timetable for George Karl’s return, there’s still the remote possibility he may be back in the postseason.
Not that his son has any inside knowledge.
“He never really shows his cards,” Coby Karl said. “I know he’s in a lot of pain. He’ll say he’s fatigued. I hope (he’s back), but I don’t know.”
Coby Karl said it was difficult being away from his dad as he went through chemotherapy. He was playing for the Idaho Stampede of the D-League, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds a game.
“It’s a slow process and I think he was kind of shocked how much it took out of him,” said Coby Karl, who had cancerous lymph nodes removed a few years ago. “He’s going to get better. I’m just looking forward to when he can start seeing the improvements. I think that’s when his spirits will start growing and his willpower will start to show.”
Coby Karl found out last week the Nuggets had an interest in him. Yet he kept it hush-hush, finding out he was going to be added just before his father called him to deliver the news.
For the son, the excitement in his father’s voice was priceless.
“He was pretty emotional about it,” Coby Karl said.
Coby Karl was with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season before being waived on Jan. 6. He also signed a 10-day contract with Golden State, averaging seven points, four rebounds and 3.9 assists in four games with the Warriors.
“It was fun to get out there and prove that I can score, I can pass, I can rebound on an NBA level,” he said.
As far as feel-good stories go, this one is pretty good. Yet Coby Karl is just looking at it simply as an opportunity to suit up for a playoff-bound team.
With any luck, though, his dad will be back, too, coaching him.
“It would be special and unique,” he said.