Bzdelik's ouster paves way for Cooper to coach Nuggets
Posted: Tuesday December 28, 2004 3:10PM; Updated: Tuesday December 28, 2004 3:10PM
Former 'Showtime' role player Michael Cooper takes over in Denver.
Jeff Bzdelik's firing is no surprise. He was in the last year of his contract, and Nuggets management had refused to offer an extension.
When Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe brought in assistant coach Michael Cooper at the beginning of the season, many expected it was to have the former Lakers star eventually move over to the big chair.
Bzdelik did a respectable job as coach in his tenure in Denver, but he never seemed to win over Vandeweghe. Bzdelik had trouble at times getting the Nuggets to stick to the defensive system. He let Carmelo Anthony get away with too much free-lancing. He didn't develop youngsters Nikoloz Tskitishvili and Nene the way Vandeweghe would have liked.
Still, it's hard to fault Bzdelik for Denver's current six-game losing streak, which seemed to prompt Tuesday's firing. After all, the Nuggets have been without Anthony (sprained ankle) for the past five games. Nor can Bzdelik be blamed for Denver's lackluster play at the start of the season. It's not his fault the Nuggets lost shooting guard Voshon Lenard to injury and backup Jon Barry to free agency over the summer.
It's almost as if Vandeweghe is using this losing streak to make the switch now because it might be harder to make a change later if the Nuggets get back on a roll. Whatever the case, Cooper should at least be able to get Denver to compete hard again on a nightly basis.
A popular assistant and former ace stopper, Cooper will emphasize defense while not abandoning Vandeweghe's vision of an up-tempo team. He'll also assign a more defined role to promising forward Rodney White, who got sporadic minutes under Bzdelik. Perhaps most important, Cooper solves the lame duck issue. The Nuggets now know their coach has real authority.