- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Call it George Karl’s third coaching life. Karl burned out in early stints coaching at Cleveland and Golden State and faded away as head man in Seattle and Milwaukee. He is now charged with leading Denver, the league’s most disappointing team.

Second-year star Carmelo Anthony leads the team in disappointment.

Since clashing with Olympic coach Larry Brown last summer, Anthony got in a fight in a New York nightclub, was arrested for marijuana possession, appeared in a bootleg DVD with reported drug dealers, suffered three ankle sprains and shot less than 40 percent.

“I see a great player that has plateaued,” Karl said of the 20-year-old.

The rest of the Nuggets, 17-25 when the team hired Karl last week, have been plagued by their own injuries and inconsistencies.

General manager Kiki Vandeweghe fired Jeff Bzdelik (13-15) and demoted interim coach Michael Cooper (4-10). Vandeweghe is running out of coaches, and he is running out of season.

That’s where Karl comes in.

Karl might be the best coach in the league when he isn’t ripping his players, management or the league — or simply getting in his own way.

In 2001, Karl was the highest-paid coach in sports, making $7 million a season while leading the Bucks within one game of the NBA Finals.

The following season, he got in his own way.

In an early 2002 Esquire article, Karl ripped Doc Rivers, calling him an “anointed” black coach. Then the Bucks fell from first place in the Eastern Conference on March 16 and out of the playoffs by the end of the season — an unprecedented nosedive.

That summer, Karl coached the United States to a sixth-place finish in the world championships in Indianapolis; he blamed everyone from his players to the country’s AAU coaches.

He lasted one more season with the Bucks.

“The last 18 months was the first time I was not with a basketball team for 38 years,” the 53-year-old Karl said. “I now realize how fun and what a privilege it is to be with a basketball team.”

It is the Nuggets’ privilege to have Karl.

Karl may be the Baby Boomer who never grew up, still questioning authority, the same scrappy kid who went to North Carolina trying to honor the game. But he can coach with anybody.

Karl will turn the Nuggets around, and they probably will make the playoffs. He almost always does.

“I feel pretty confident that I’m going to be better because of what happened in Milwaukee,” Karl said. “Hopefully, I’m an intelligent being who will learn from the mistakes.”

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