Nuggets' coach Karl plans to return

DENVER — After surviving throat-and-neck cancer this spring — and a blood clot scare in recent weeks — Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is feeling better and plans to return to coaching next season.

"I'll be excited to be back on the bench. That's what I do, that's the dream," Karl said Thursday in an interview at his home.

Asked if there's any chance he won't return as coach, Karl said, "I don't see that happening, but I am going to put my health first, and come next fall, if the doctors don't feel it's a wise thing and I don't think it's a wise thing, (then we'll re-evaluate).

"But my feeling is the exact opposite. We're in a good place, the steps have been good, the tests have been good, and I've just got to keep plugging away every day."

Karl, who turned 59 on Wednesday, is still battling the aftereffects of intense radiation and chemotherapy treatments, notably fatigue.


He has lost about 10 percent of his weight and continues to feed himself through a tube, a scoop of ice cream or a slice of peach notwithstanding.

Karl continues to deal with excessive mucus in his mouth, takes numerous medicines, attends weekly doctor appointments and biweekly blood tests.

But, in the past week, he's joined his family at restaurants while also visiting Nuggets coaches at the Pepsi Center.

Karl said he hopes to get into a routine in the next few weeks where he works a half day two to three times a week. He also hopes to attend games in the Las Vegas summer league during July.

Under Karl last season, the Nuggets went 42-21. They stumbled to a 53-29 finish with Adrian Dantley as the acting head coach.

In the playoffs, the Nuggets lost to the underdog Utah Jazz in six games.

"The thing that killed me was the defense – we tried to win the game by out-shooting them," Karl said. "Because of that, we didn't find that special toughness to beat a team like Utah."

Asked how the Nuggets can be a title contender next season, Karl said: "Health is important. Commitment to a belief in togetherness. We talk about playing as a team and passing the ball, and I think there has to be a harder hammer. If you're not going to do it, then you're not going to play."


Karl can't predict a major roster shakeup, with every rotation player from this past season under contract.

"I don't think it's time to panic," he said, adding, "It's a time to make good decisions and get healthy."

He was talking about his players, not himself. All three Nuggets post players — Kenyon Martin, Nene and Chris Andersen — dealt with injuries during the playoffs.

"I would say a big guy would be high on the priority list," Karl said of a possible roster addition.

Nobody, not even Karl himself, can say how he'll feel come autumn. But the coach has shown vast improvement over the past month.

In an interview three weeks ago he had to stop talking after six minutes due to pain in his throat.

"I'm doing better every day, except for the second blood clot — that surprised everybody, but I think that's under control now," Karl said.

"There's still a lot of mucus in my mouth, but the sores aren't as painful. ... My first priority is to take care of me. There are thousands of people going through what I'm doing, some in a lot worse (shape) than me, and it's a tough fight. It's a day-to-day thing. You need your friends, you need your support systems.


"I couldn't have done it without Kim (Van Deraa, his life partner and mother of their daughter). She has been an angel. ... The fans have been great. It's been impossible to put in words how nice they are, how supportive and committed they are," Karl said. "They're genuine."

What To Read Next
Get Local