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Josh Kroenke must be the change the Nuggets need

Kalen Deremo Avatar
May 31, 2015


When the Nuggets fired Brian Shaw on March 3 there was still snow on the ground in Colorado, the Patriots still won the SuperBowl without cheating, seeding in the Western Conference was still up in the air and the Cleveland Cavaliers were still considered a work in progress.

Three months later the Nuggets are still without a head coach.

Which is fine. Sometimes it takes a while to see who’s available, whittle down the best on the market, interview them extensively — all the essentials that come along with doing your homework to ensure you make the best decision possible for your franchise.

Except for the Nuggets, that’s hardly the case.

If reports are accurate, the Nuggets have still yet to interview Mike D’Antoni. They never interviewed Scott Brooks before he decided to step away from basketball for a year. Same goes for Alvin Gentry, Scott Skiles and Billy Donovan who’ve all accepted head coaching positions in the NBA in the last month alone. The Nuggets were also rumored to be interested in Mike Malone and Fred Hoiberg yet there have been no reports verifying any formal communication between them. In fact, of all the candidates the Nuggets were supposedly intrigued by, only one has engaged in any sort of correspondence with the team: the Nuggets’ own Melvin Hunt, a guy who works literally withing walking distance from Tim Connelly’s and Josh Kroenke’s offices at the Pepsi Center.

So what exactly are the Nuggets doing?

It’s tough to say, but one thing they’re certainly not doing is any favors for themselves. On one hand they say they’re an organization of transparency. If that’s the case then we can all see pretty damn clearly the lack of effort being put into this coaching search. On the other hand Tim Connelly has stated the Nuggets’ like to conduct business in house and avoid progress being leaked to the media. In this scenario, if the Nuggets do in fact have an idea of who they’re going to hire as head coach, their lack of interest in other candidates looks even more egregious as it would appear they blindly settled on one coach from the start without dutifully considering all other possible options to ensure the right candidate, the one that guarantees longterm success for the franchise, was chosen…

Like, for example, Tom Thibodeau.

You would think the Nuggets’ strategy of patience was employed exactly for this type of situation, so that if a great head coach somehow became available the Nuggets would be right there waiting to pounce.

You would think.

But remember, the Nuggets want to run, and Tom Thibodeau only wins lots of basketball games by playing slow. And winning lots of basketball games in a manner Josh Kroenke doesn’t agree with just isn’t something that’s gonna fly in Denver. Because what matters most is not winning, not defense, nor championships, but running at a speed slightly faster than your opponent. Because that’s what brought the Nuggets success in the past (and by success I mean playoff appearances), and as we all know, what’s worked in the past is always proven to work in the future.

Except it hasn’t. And Josh Kroenke knew it. And he decided to do something about it two years ago by firing George Karl. But now he thinks perhaps he was wrong.

I guess that’s the logic, the line of thinking behind Josh Kroenke’s decision to run: Brian Shaw slowed things down and it didn’t work, therefore all basketball played at a slower pace is unsuccessful. So, after firing George Karl two years ago because the Nuggets ran faster than anybody in the league but couldn’t win in the playoffs, Kroenke is right back to buying in to the idea that the Nuggets can run faster than anybody in the league and win in the playoffs. Which of course means really really good coaches like Tom Thibodeau will never have a chance with the Nuggets.

So why exactly was George Karl fired then?

Who knows. Really. I don’t think anybody who covers this team or watches them on a nightly basis has any idea what the Nuggets’ M.O. is from day to day, because if there’s one thing that’s been consistent under Josh Kroenke’s reign it’s blatant inconsistency regarding virtually every type of standard you’d hope the Nuggets would uphold.

You’d think having a reigning Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year, in the same year nonetheless, would be something a guy with championship aspirations would approve of. But, not so. Both were gone within months of receiving their awards. And while Karl’s firing was at least understandable (at the time) the fact Kroenke wouldn’t pay the best general manager in the NBA a mere $3 million per year to run his team says all you need to know about just how truly committed Josh Kroenke is to winning — if you didn’t quite get the gist from when he let go of the 2015 Best Coach in the League and 2015 Best GM in the League upon his first full year as team president and owner.

You’d think after nearly a decade of run-and-gun basketball that got the Nuggets nowhere in the playoffs that Kroenke would emphasize defense in his coaching search. Yet he’s done virtually the exact opposite.

You’d think with over three months to do research and interviews that the Nuggets would be covering all their bases to once and for all obtain the very best coach on the market to establish and foster a winning culture for years. And yet the Nuggets have interviewed nobody.

You’d think after inheriting one of the best teams in your franchise’s history that you’d do anything for the sake of continuity, to keep the winning culture alive, to keep pushing for a championship. And yet the Nuggets have inexplicably gone in reverse.

As we sit and wait for the Nuggets to hire a head coach, while they continue to do whatever it is they’re doing (or not doing), we must remember that dysfunction is who the Denver Nuggets are under Josh Kroenke. The record states it; the moves prove it. Over the past two years the Nuggets are contradictory, vexing and at times purely enigmatic. What’s company policy one day is antiquated the next.

And still we wonder why Ty Lawson acts out and why Kenneth Faried suddenly sprouts a superstar attitude when for four years under George Karl, when the Nuggets were winning, these players were near model citizens. Their disgruntlement is of no coincidence with the Nuggets’ failures under Josh Kroenke. These players — while far too outspoken for my personal liking — aren’t entirely unfounded. They have eyes, ears, brains. They know what’s going on. And they likely have a pretty good idea of where this ship’s steering in the future.

Which is why Josh Kroenke’s recent statements in The Denver Post about keeping players who want to be in Denver and jettisoning those who don’t are the absolute perfect microcosm of this entire situation. Because Josh Kroenke is failing to see the big picture, and while attempting to diagnose the Nuggets’ disorders is indeed honorable, Kroenke has in the process overlooked perhaps the most significant problem of all: himself.

Denver isn’t the problem. The players aren’t the problem. Playing slow isn’t the problem. The problem is the Nuggets organization, how it’s run from the top down and the wobbly cornerstone principles it rests on.

All players want is to win and where they want to be is a place where winning happens most often, regardless of local. Do you honestly think if given the choice, winning aside, guys would prefer to play in Cleveland or Oklahoma City over Philadelphia or New York? Not a chance in hell. But because the Cavs and Thunder have awesome players and franchise stability, they’re much more attractive than standing alone.

In the NBA, just as is the case with nearly all professional sports franchises in America, winning is everything. For Josh Kroenke, the problem really isn’t the lack of craft beer-guzzling, beard-obsessed, outdoor-loving mountaineers in the NBA who want to open up farm-to-table restaurants in Boulder the first chance they get; it’s the fact the Nuggets are a losing, frugal, capricious franchise with no identity and no clear resolution for any of their myriad ailments, all of which have coincided with the arrival of Josh Kroenke as team monarch.

If the Nuggets want to win, if they want to change their culture and attract players who want to be in Denver, it starts from the top down. It all starts with Josh Kroenke.

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