Veteran coach expected to be on Denver bench tonight in Milwaukee.
DENVER (AP) -- George Karl had been involved with basketball since the seventh grade, so not having it in his life for nearly two years left him feeling empty.
Now that he's headed back to the NBA, Karl has a greater appreciation for what the game has meant to him.
Out of the NBA since the Bucks fired him in 2003, Karl was back in Milwaukee on Thursday to take over as coach of the underachieving Denver Nuggets. He's expected to be on the bench tonight, making his debut with the Nuggets against his former team.
"The last 18 months was the first time I was not with a basketball team for 38 years," Karl said. "I now realize how fun and what a privilege it is to be with a basketball team."
The Nuggets hope his enthusiasm rubs off.
One of the favorites in the Western Conference at the start of the season, Denver hasn't lived up to the expectations that came with adding All-Star power forward Kenyon Martin to a team that had reached the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Plagued by injuries and inconsistencies, the Nuggets got off to a horrible start and haven't really recovered. Coach Jeff Bzdelik lost his job Dec. 28 and Denver has been only marginally better under interim coach Michael Cooper, entering tonight's game 17-25 and 12 1/2 games out of first place in the Northwest Division.
Karl brings credibility, ranking 13th all-time with 708 wins and leading his teams to five division titles and 13 playoff appearances in 16 seasons.
With a lineup that includes Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, Denver certainly doesn't lack talent. What the Nuggets seem to need is motivation.
Karl isn't likely to stand for lackadaisical effort. He's had clashes with players at just about every stop in his coaching career, particularly in Milwaukee, but always seems to get the best out of them. Besides, the time off has allowed him to take a look at his approach to coaching.
"I feel pretty confident that I'm going to be better because of what happened in Milwaukee," said Karl, who was an analyst at ESPN after being fired by the Bucks. "Hopefully, I'm an intelligent being who will learn from the mistakes that we made here."