George Karl

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George Karl
George Karl.jpg
Karl in 2011
Personal information
Born (1951-05-12) May 12, 1951 (age 65)
Penn Hills, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Listed weight 185 lb (84 kg)
Career information
High school Penn Hills
(Penn Hills, Pennsylvania)
College North Carolina (1970–1973)
NBA draft 1973 / Round: 4 / Pick: 66th overall
Selected by the New York Knicks
Playing career 1973–1978
Position Guard
Number 22
Coaching career 1978–2016
Career history
As player:
19731978 San Antonio Spurs
As coach:
19781980 San Antonio Spurs (assistant)
1980–1983 Montana Golden Nuggets
19841986 Cleveland Cavaliers
19861988 Golden State Warriors
1988–1989 Albany Patroons
1989–1990 Real Madrid
1990–1991 Albany Patroons
1991–1992 Real Madrid
19921998 Seattle SuperSonics
19982003 Milwaukee Bucks
20052013 Denver Nuggets
20152016 Sacramento Kings
Career highlights and awards
Career ABA/NBA statistics
Points 1,703 (6.5 ppg)
Rebounds 369 (1.4 rpg)
Assists 795 (3.0 apg)
Stats at

George Matthew Karl (born May 12, 1951) is an American former professional basketball coach and former player. He is one of 9 coaches in NBA history to have won 1,000 NBA games, though he never won a championship.


Karl was born in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, where he starred at Penn Hills High School.[1] After a college career at the University of North Carolina he signed with the ABA's San Antonio Spurs in 1973. When the Spurs joined the NBA in 1976, Karl began his two-year NBA playing career.

Early coaching career[edit]

After his playing career, Karl became an assistant coach for the Spurs. Karl then moved on to the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) as head coach of the Montana Golden Nuggets (Great Falls). As coach of the Golden Nuggets, Karl won CBA Coach of the Year twice, in 1981 and 1983.

In 1984, Karl became the head coach of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, taking them to the playoffs in 1985. He was dismissed by the Cavs in 1986 near the end of the season.

In the 1986–87 season, Karl coached the Golden State Warriors and took them from a record of 30–52 the year before, to the playoffs for the first time in ten years. They reached the semifinals against the Magic Johnson led Los Angeles Lakers, Game 4 of which is still shown on TV in the NBA's Greatest Games series. Sleepy Floyd hit 12 straight field goals in the fourth quarter that gave him two NBA playoff records (29 points in a quarter, 39 in a half) and finished with 51 points in Golden State's 129–121 win.

Karl resigned from the Warriors with 18 games left in the 1987–88 campaign, due to the frustration of losing when three of his top four scorers from the 1987 playoff team, Purvis Short, Sleepy Floyd and Joe Barry Carroll, had been traded, and the fourth, Chris Mullin went through alcohol rehabilitation and missed over a month.[2][3]

Karl returned to the CBA in 1988 as coach of the Albany Patroons for a year before coaching Real Madrid in Spain for two years.[4]

In 1990–91, Karl was back in the CBA with the Patroons where their 50–6 season, while winning all 28 home games, won coach Karl CBA coach of the year for the third time.[5]

Seattle SuperSonics[edit]

The SuperSonics went 384-150 and averaged 59 wins per season under Karl, second only to Chicago during that span. [6] He took Seattle to the playoffs in all seven seasons of his tenure. Despite regular season success, Karl's SuperSonics managed a 40-40 postseason record. The lack of an NBA championship under Karl and his deteriorating relationship with general manager Wally Walker [7] led to Karl's eventual dismissal before the 1998-99 season.

Karl's time with Seattle began when he returned to the NBA as coach of the Seattle SuperSonics midway through the 1991-92 season. He turned a young team around, from an eighth-seeded playoff team the previous year, to a 47-win team that would stun the 50-win Golden State Warriors in the first round.

During the 1992–93 season, Karl's SuperSonics won 55 games. After stunning the Midwest Division champion Houston Rockets in round two, the SuperSonics pushed Phoenix to seven games before falling to them in the Western Conference Finals.

The following season, Seattle traded sixth man Eddie Johnson to the Charlotte Hornets for Kendall Gill. Gill clashed with Karl and his scoring average dropped to 14.1 ppg, down from 16.9 the previous year. Despite that, Seattle won 63 games and its first Pacific Division title since their 1979 championship season. The SuperSonics played the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets in the opening round of the 1994 NBA Playoffs. After winning the first two games at home, Seattle lost the following three, including the closing game at home, to become the first top seed to lose to an eighth-seed in the NBA Playoffs.

The 1994–95 season had a similar result when Seattle suffered a first-round shocker after finishing the season 57-25. This time, Karl's SuperSonics were stunned by the fifth-seeded Los Angeles Lakers led by point guard Nick Van Exel who clashed with Karl during the 1993 NBA rookie workouts.

1995–96 was Karl's peak in Seattle, leading the SuperSonics to 64 wins, a Pacific Division title, and their first NBA Finals appearance since 1979. The SuperSonics lost to the Chicago Bulls in six games.

Seattle finished first in the Pacific Division twice during next two years while amassing a 118-46 record during the same time frame. Seattle lost to Houston in the second round of the 1997 NBA Playoffs. The following year, Seattle fell swiftly to the Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Milwaukee Bucks[edit]

In 1998, Karl was named head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, lured by a particularly lucrative contract offer. Coming to a team that had not made the playoffs in seven seasons, Karl helped rebuild the struggling organization by making the playoffs in each of his first three seasons, steadily increasing their win totals.

He guided the Bucks, led by a "Big Three" of Glenn Robinson, Ray Allen and Sam Cassell to their first division championship in 15 years, which culminated with an appearance in the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals (they lost in seven games). The Bucks entered his fourth season with high expectations, however they finished ninth place in the conference and missed the playoffs. Seeded as high as fourth in the conference halfway through the season, the Bucks collapsed and were eliminated from the playoffs in the final regular season game.

The Bucks finished the 2002-03 season 42-40 to qualify for the playoffs, though they were eliminated in the first round in six games. New GM Larry Harris decided to move the team in a new direction and fire Karl. Allen, Robinson and Cassell had already been traded, giving the Bucks an entirely different look just two years after coming within a game of the NBA Finals.

He coached the US national team in the 2002 FIBA World Championship.[8]

Denver Nuggets[edit]

He returned to the NBA in 2005 when he became head coach of the Nuggets, taking over from interim head coach Michael Cooper on January 27 and leading the team to the postseason. On July 27, 2005 the Nuggets announced that Karl had prostate cancer. Karl enjoyed a resurrection of his career with the Nuggets, guiding them to a 32–8 record in the second half of the 2004–05 season.

On December 28, 2006, Karl became just the 12th coach in NBA history to reach 800 wins when the Nuggets defeated the SuperSonics 112–98.

On December 31, 2008, Karl reached 900 coaching career wins with the Nuggets as they beat the Toronto Raptors 114–107.

Karl with the Nuggets in 2009

During the 2008–09 season, the Nuggets, led by Karl, Carmelo Anthony, and the newly acquired Chauncey Billups tied a franchise-best 54 wins and entered the playoffs as the Western Conference's #2 seed. On April 27, 2009, the Nuggets handed the Hornets a 58-point loss during Game 4 of their first round playoff series. This tied the biggest margin in NBA playoff history[9] The Nuggets beat the Mavericks in 5 games during the semifinals, then went on to lose to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in 6 games, losing Game 6 by 27.[10]

Karl coached the Western Conference All-Stars at the 2010 NBA All-Star Game on February 14 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.[11] This was his fourth selection, and his first since leaving Seattle.

After the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, it was revealed in a press conference that Karl was diagnosed with treatable neck and throat cancer.[12] He was placed on leave of absence from the Nuggets while being treated. Assistant coach Adrian Dantley filled in as acting head coach for the rest of the season, and the team finished poorly, and went from the second to fourth seed. Although Karl was not ruled out of coaching the second round, the Nuggets were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in 6 games.[13]

He has since recovered from cancer and coached every game of the 2010–11 season, becoming the seventh NBA coach to record 1,000 career wins on December 10, 2010.[14][15]

Having acquired Andre Iguodala in the 2012 offseason, many sports analysts listed the Denver Nuggets as contenders for the playoffs. The Nuggets ended as the third seed with the third best record in the Western Conference and the best home record in the league for the 2012–13 season. In the first round, they faced the sixth seed Golden State Warriors and won their first home game. After they lost the next three, Karl led them to another home win in Game 5, but the team eventually lost in Game 6. The series ended with the Nuggets losing 2–4.

On May 8, 2013, Karl was awarded his first NBA Coach of the Year Award. The team won a franchise-record 57 games despite being the league's third-youngest team with an average age of 24.9 years, and without any player averaging over 16.7 points per game during the regular season.[16][17]

Entering the final season of his contract, Karl pushed the Nuggets for a contract extension. On June 6, 2013, he was fired by Denver.[17][18] He left the Nuggets with a 423-257 record, which was the second most wins in franchise history behind Doug Moe (432). He led Denver to the playoffs in all nine seasons, but advanced out of the first round only once, in 2009, when they lost in the conference finals.[17][19]

Sacramento Kings[edit]

On February 12, 2015, after several weeks of talks and speculation, Karl agreed to a deal to become the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, after signing a four-year, $15 million contract.[20][21] He was officially introduced by the Kings on February 17.[22] In his first season as coach the Kings went 11–19 in 30 games.

On April 14, 2016, Karl was fired by the Kings after a disappointing 2015–16 season in which the Kings went 33–49.[23][24] Karl was also only one game shy from coaching his 2,000th game in the NBA.


Karl's son, Coby, played as a starting point guard for Boise State, and has since played in the NBA and other leagues. Coby Karl is a thyroid cancer survivor.[25] Karl also has two daughters, Kelci and Kaci.[26]


Karl is an avid supporter of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and serves as an ambassador for their Hoops for St. Jude basketball initiative.[27]

NBA coaching record[edit]

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Cleveland 1984–85 82 36 46 .439 4th in Central 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Cleveland 1985–86 67 25 42 .373 (fired)
Golden State 1986–87 82 42 40 .512 3rd in Pacific 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Golden State 1987–88 64 16 48 .250 (fired)
Seattle 1991–92 42 27 15 .643 4th in Pacific 9 4 5 .444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Seattle 1992–93 82 55 27 .671 2nd in Pacific 19 10 9 .526 Lost in Conf. Finals
Seattle 1993–94 82 63 19 .768 1st in Pacific 5 2 3 .400 Lost in First Round
Seattle 1994–95 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Pacific 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Seattle 1995–96 82 64 18 .780 1st in Pacific 21 13 8 .619 Lost in NBA Finals
Seattle 1996–97 82 57 25 .695 1st in Pacific 12 6 6 .500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Seattle 1997–98 82 61 21 .744 T-1st in Pacific 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Milwaukee 1998–99 50 28 22 .560 4th in Central 3 0 3 .000 Lost in First Round
Milwaukee 1999–00 82 42 40 .512 5th in Central 5 2 3 .400 Lost in First Round
Milwaukee 2000–01 82 52 30 .634 1st in Central 18 10 8 .250 Lost in Conf. Finals
Milwaukee 2001–02 82 41 41 .500 5th in Central Missed Playoffs
Milwaukee 2002–03 82 42 40 .512 4th in Central 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
Denver 2004–05 40 32 8 .800 2nd in Northwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
Denver 2005–06 82 44 38 .537 1st in Northwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
Denver 2006–07 82 45 37 .549 2nd in Northwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
Denver 2007–08 82 50 32 .610 2nd in Northwest 4 0 4 .000 Lost in First Round
Denver 2008–09 82 54 28 .659 1st in Northwest 16 10 6 .625 Lost in Conf. Finals
Denver 2009–10 82 53 29 .646 1st in Northwest 6 2 4 .250 Lost in First Round
Denver 2010–11 82 50 32 .644 2nd in Northwest 5 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round
Denver 2011–12 66 38 28 .576 2nd in Northwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round
Denver 2012–13 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Northwest 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round
Sacramento 2014–15 30 11 19 .367 4th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Sacramento 2015–16 82 33 49 .402 3rd in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Career 1999 1175 824 .588 185 80 105 .432

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Finder, Chuck (June 13, 1996). "They Can't Forget Karl". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved April 23, 2016. 
  2. ^ Ellensburg Daily Record – Google News Archive Search
  3. ^ 1987–88 Golden State Warriors Roster and Stats |
  4. ^ George Karl | The Official Site Of The Denver Nuggets
  5. ^ History of the Albany Patroons
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ 2002 USA Basketball Archived July 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Game 4 Recap
  10. ^ 2009 Western Conf. Finals Recap
  11. ^ Nuggets' Karl to coach West in 2010 All-Star Game
  12. ^ Nuggets coach Karl to miss time after cancer resurfaces
  13. ^ 2010 Utah Series Recap
  14. ^ "George Karl gets his 1,000th win in the NBA". Associated Press. December 10, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  15. ^ "George Karl earns 1,000th win as Nuggets edge Raptors". ESPN. December 11, 2010. Retrieved July 31, 2016. 
  16. ^ "Nuggets' Karl nabs his first NBA Coach of Year award" (Press release). NBA. May 8, 2013. Archived from the original on June 6, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b c Thomsen, Ian (June 6, 2013). "Nuggets face uncertain summer with George Karl, Masai Ujiri gone". Archived from the original on June 6, 2013. 
  18. ^ Wojnarowski, Adrian (June 6, 2013). "Nuggets fire coach George Karl". Archived from the original on June 6, 2013. 
  19. ^ "George Karl will not return as Nuggets coach in 2013-14". June 6, 2013. Archived from the original on June 6, 2013. 
  20. ^ Kings Reach Agreement in Principle with George Karl to Become Team's Head Coach
  21. ^ George Karl to coach Kings
  22. ^ Kings Name George Karl Head Coach
  23. ^ "George Karl Not to Return as Kings Head Coach for 2016-17 Season". April 14, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2016. 
  24. ^ "Kings fire George Karl". April 14, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2016. 
  25. ^ Coby Karl stands out at charity event
  26. ^ George Karl. coaching profile.
  27. ^ Jude, St. (2012-03-05). "Coach George Karl". St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. p. 1. Retrieved 2012-03-05. 

External links[edit]