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Cavaliers Coaching Search: What about George Karl?

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If the Cavs want to hire a proven winner as their next head coach, there is one obvious candidate staring them directly in the face.


Monday was a banner day for rumors about the vacant Cleveland Cavaliers head coaching position. We learned that Dan Gilbert supposedly offered full control of the team to John Calipari. Also, we found out that they would interview former star Mark Price for the position. This all came on the heels of rumors that they are giving serious consideration to Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, and will grant second interviews to Tyronn Lue and Alvin Gentry.

With the exception of Calipari, who had a .391 winning percentage from 1996 through 1999 with the Nets, and Gentry, a veteran coach with a .475 career winning percentage, most of the names tied to the job are men with little NBA coaching experience. Blatt has no NBA experience whatsoever. Price and Lue have never been lead assistants. There's also Adrian Griffin and David Fizdale, who also would be first time head coaches if offered the job.

This is a new trend in the NBA. The hottest name in coaching searches earlier this summer was Steve Kerr, who had never previously coached at any level. The New York Knicks just hired Derek Fisher, who was still an active player just days earlier. It seems that many teams now value the excitement of the unknown over well-known commodities.

At the expense of this trend, it appears, is George Karl. Between 1984 and 2013, Karl amassed a .599 winning percentage. In his nine most recent seasons, he led the Denver Nuggets to the playoffs every year -- in the superior Western Conference. He's often criticized for his team's failures in the postseason, but he rarely failed to get his teams that far.

What would it take to get such a successful and respected coach to come work for Gilbert? Not much, apparently. He's made it widely known that he's very interested in the Cavs job.

And yet, the Cavs have yet to make it known that they're interested in him. His name does come up on the internet: Kirk at WFNY has advocated for him, and he was briefly discussed on the Fear the Sword podcast last week. But so far as I know, the team has not even so much as granted him an interview. And most fans seem to be pretty much fine with that.

I am not necessarily trying to advocate for Karl. There are certainly concerns about his age, health, and how much control over personnel decisions he might want. Maybe he simply doesn't mesh with David Griffin. Those are all factors that it is impossible for me to know enough about.

However, it is hard for me to sit here and not wonder why the team hasn't at least interviewed him. If they're talking to Alvin Gentry, who is only four years younger, why wouldn't they be talking to Karl, who has a much better track record? Shouldn't he at least be in the mix?

I admit that my first choice for the job was Kerr. I am also intrigued by Blatt, Fizdale, Lue, and Adrian Griffin. There is something genuinely exciting about the idea of plucking the next great young, innovative head coach from relative obscurity.

George Karl is not young, nor is he thought of as particularly innovative (at least not in the way that a guy like Blatt is considered to be innovative). But he is proven. He's not sexy, but he's a winner. And that should be enough to earn him consideration.