The Lakers once frustrated him with endless playoff series victories that ended his season. But will George Karl patrol the sidelines as the Lakers’ coach and ensure that postseason success returns?
It appears uncertain.
Karl talked informally over the phone with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak shortly before the Lakers spent the last two weeks interviewing candidates about the team’s head-coaching vacancy, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. But that has yet to morph into a formal interview.
Both the Lakers and Karl have their reservations about a partnership for various reasons. Karl runs a fast-tempo system after Mike D’Antoni encountered a divided locker room surrounding his up-tempo style. That included Kobe Bryant, whom Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has said will be most effective operating from the post entering his 18th season after suffering two major injuries. Bryant missed the first 19 games of last season while rehabbing a left Achilles tendon, and then appeared in only six games before suffering a season-ending left knee fracture. Karl also had a testy relationship with another prolific scorer in Carmelo Anthony because his high volume shooting contradicted his hope for a balanced offense.
Considering his extensive NBA head-coaching experience with stops with the Cleveland Cavaliers (1984-86), Golden State Warriors (1986-88), Seattle Supersonics (1992-98), Milwaukee Bucks (1998-2003) and the Denver Nuggets (2005-13), Karl also has some hesitation in coaching the Lakers in what appears to be a rebuilding stage.
Nonetheless, Karl has various qualities that could make a partnership with the Lakers work.
Karl became only the seventh coach in NBA history in 2010 to win 1,000 games, made a Finals appearance in 1996 with Seattle and made 22 playoff appearances. Karl was also named NBA Coach of the Year after leading the Denver Nuggets to a 57-25 record in 2013, though was fired following a first-round loss to the Golden State Warriors. Karl also has personal ties with the Lakers. He and Kupchak were roommates at North Carolina. Karl’s son, Coby, also played for the Lakers in the 2007-08 season.
Karl’s teams in Denver also tested the Lakers in the playoffs. Although they lost to the Lakers in 2008 in a first-round sweep, the Nuggets challenged the Lakers before losing in six games in the 2009 Western Conference Finals and in seven games in a first-round matchup in 2012.