He has compiled more than 1,155 victories, made 22 playoff appearances and put together 21 winning seasons. Among coaches in any professional sport, few are more accomplished than longtime NBA coach George Karl.
Karl currently ranks fifth in NBA history with 1,156 career victories. Of the four men who have won more games, only two – Pat Riley and Jerry Sloan – have a better winning percentage than Karl (.594). Karl has also notched 80 career playoff victories, good for 10th all-time, and earned 10 Coach of the Month honors, which is tied for the fourth-most in NBA history.
Karl was head coach of the Sacramento Kings from February 2014 through April 2016.
Prior to going the Kings, Karl spent eight-plus seasons (2005-13) as coach of the Denver Nuggets. He oversaw one of the most successful eras in franchise history as the Nuggets went 423-257 and reached the playoffs each year. His victories are second only to Doug Moe in the team’s NBA history, while his .622 winning percentage is unmatched. His streak of nine straight postseason appearances matched Moe’s nine consecutive (1982-90), and Denver’s run of four straight 50-win seasons from 2007-2011 is the longest such streak in team history.
Karl enjoyed one of the finest seasons of his career in 2012-13, guiding the Nuggets to a team-record 57 wins and the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference — all while working with the third-youngest roster in the NBA. Denver went 38-3 at home (also a team record) and won a franchise-record 15 straight games from Feb. 23-March 23. For his work, Karl was named the 2012-13 NBA Coach of the Year for the first time in his illustrious career.
Karl has served as head coach of the Sacramento Kings (2014- ), Denver Nuggets (2004-13), Milwaukee Bucks (1998-03), Seattle SuperSonics (1991-98), Golden State Warriors (1986-88) and Cleveland Cavaliers (1984-86). During his coaching career, Karl’s players have made 27 All-Star appearances, earned 16 All-NBA honors, made 11 All-Defensive teams and won two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
During Karl’s tenure in Seattle, the Sonics averaged 59 wins per season and won 384 games – second only to Chicago during that span. He led the Sonics to three 60-win seasons, had just one losing month and never had a losing streak longer than three games. Only three coaches have led their teams to more 60-win seasons in NBA history: Riley (seven), Jackson (six) and K.C. Jones (four).
In five seasons in Milwaukee, Karl led the Bucks to a record of 205-173 and four playoff berths, highlighted in 2001 by the team’s first trip to the conference finals since 1986.
Karl broke into coaching as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs (then in the ABA) under Nuggets coaching icon Doug Moe. He landed his first head coaching position with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the CBA in 1980 and went on to become one of the most successful coaches in that league’s history. A three-time CBA Coach of the Year (1981, ’83 and ’91), Karl compiled a 176-66 (.727) record in five CBA seasons. He led the Albany Patroons to a league-record 50-6 mark in 1990-91, including a perfect 28-0 at home. He also coached two years in Spain with Real Madrid.
In 2001, Karl was selected as the head coach of USA Basketball’s 2002 World Championship Team that competed in the 2002 FIBA World Basketball Championships in Indianapolis.
As a player, Karl averaged 6.5 ppg and 3.0 apg over 264 games and five seasons between the ABA and NBA. He attended the University of North Carolina, where as a junior, he helped lead the Tar Heels to the 1972 NCAA Final Four, and during his sophomore season (1970-71), helped UNC to an NIT title. Although drafted by the New York Knicks in the fourth round of the 1973 NBA Draft, he signed with the San Antonio Spurs of the ABA.
As a two-time cancer survivor (Karl overcame prostate cancer in 2005), Karl is actively involved with several cancer-related organizations. He and his life partner Kim Van Deraa launched the George Karl Foundation in March 2012. The foundation’s mission is to support causes and organizations important to their family, including cancer care programs, education and patient navigation. More information can be found at www.georgekarlfoundation.org.
Karl works closely with MyLifeline.org, Love Hope Strength, the American Cancer Society, the Cancer League of Colorado and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Karl, born May 12, 1952, has three children – daughters Kelci and Kaci and son Coby, who was on Denver’s roster at the end of the 2009-10 season. In 2007-08, Coby and George became just the third father/son duo to face each other in an NBA game and the first to do so in a postseason game as Denver took on Coby’s Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the 2008 NBA Playoffs. According to Elias Sports Bureau, there are no known instances of a player appearing in an NBA game with his father as his head coach in NBA history.