Don't expect an immediate announcement on the next coach of the Nuggets. With the futures of two marquee coaches—the Bulls' Phil Jackson and the Sonics' George Karl—uncertain, general manager Dan Issel will wisely wait before filling the position.
Last week Issel performed the unpleasant task of firing Bill Hanzlik, whose locker was next to Issel's when they both played in Denver. Hanzlik's nightmare season was marked by a pair of flare-ups from rookie point guard Bobby Jackson, who cursed at assistant coach Brian Winters during one game and refused to check in when Hanzlik wanted to insert him at the end of a blowout. Says Issel, "I'm looking for someone who in the first five minutes of practice lets everyone know he's in total control."
While it seems pure folly to think the Nuggets can attract an elite coach such as Jackson or Karl, the job isn't as bleak as it looks. The Nuggets could be as much as $10 million under the cap this summer, are assured of no lower than the fourth pick in the June 24 draft and next season will regain the services of forward Eric Williams, who was off to a terrific start when he injured his knee in November and was lost for the year. Denver also has an arena under construction, which is scheduled to open in time for the 1999-2000 season.
The Nuggets' resurgence would be dramatically advanced by the hiring of a top coach, and owner Charlie Lyons has told Issel he will provide him with the money necessary to land one. Denver sources say that Lyons favors Jackson, but the Nuggets won't be the only team pursuing him if he becomes available. The Lakers will want to speak with Chicago's Zen Master if Del Harris fails to take L.A. deep into the playoffs.
Denver hopes that Jackson's love for the state of Colorado and the fact that three of his five children attend college there might be factors in its favor. "Did you know Phil's son lives one floor below my son at the University of Colorado?" Issel asks.
Hey, it's a start.