Nuggets' Josh Kroenke makes a reasonable case for self-destruction

Doug Pensinger

The Nuggets' owner begins to clean up his mess.

A strange thing happened on Friday. Josh Kroenke, the young owner of the Denver Nuggets, addressed the media on the topics of Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri's departure to the Toronto Raptors and Coach of the Year George Karl's dismissal. Despite decisions that seem dumbfounding after the Nuggets' best regular season ever, Kroenke actually made sense.

The Ujiri thing happened because Kroenke knew how badly his GM wanted to return to where his NBA career truly began. Kroenke said he let Karl go now because he didn't want to give him a long-term extension but also didn't want to have to put the legend on the hot seat if Denver got off to a slow start in 2013-14.

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Offseason coaching changes are always preferred to midseason ones, and there is a certain sort of indignity for well-respected coaches who find themselves on Hoopshype all through November and December. Is this the first compassionate firing since Lawrence Frank in 2009?

Of course, Kroenke's already famous quote -- "I'm not here to win awards, I'm here to win banners" -- will be what resonates from Friday's presser. That's a pretty clear statement that Kroenke doesn't think Karl was the coach to get the Nuggets a banner. Grantland's Zach Lowe did a fine job looking at Karl's postseason history. That history is not good, but it's also not cut-and-dry. Karl's teams rarely advance far in the playoffs, but Karl's teams are rarely favored to win series.

The important part is what comes next. Where will Kroenke find his next GM, one who can navigate the Andre Iguodala situation cleanly? Who can coach such a very George Karl team? One of the realities that protects Kroenke from backlash among coaches and executives who may frown on his abrupt overhaul is that jobs are horribly rare (even in high-turnover offseasons like this one) and, all told, Denver's in a good place.

The Nuggets' situation looked ugly on Thursday. Kroenke cleaned it up quite a bit on Friday. His hiring decisions can go even further to put fans at ease. Whether letting Ujiri leave and sending Karl out were the right decisions, though, won't be decided for quite a while.

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