MIAMI — No amount of success makes an NBA coach immune to firing. But no one would have anticipated George Karl getting cut loose in Denver, just weeks removed from being named the NBA's Coach of the Year after leading an injury-riddled Denver squad without an all-star to the playoffs and a 57-win season.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, like many throughout the NBA sports world, was shocked to hear Karl was fired.
"That's certainly a surprise," said Spoelstra who finished second to Karl in the Coach of the Year voting this past season.
Karl has a career winning percentage of .599, having amassed 1,131 wins while leading the Nuggets to the playoffs in each of his nine seasons in Denver.
However, his postseason success was minimal with Denver getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs in all but one season when they advanced to the conference finals in 2009.
While Karl's firing may have come as a surprise to many, it certainly falls in line with what we're seeing throughout the NBA.
Of the 16 teams that qualified for the playoffs this past season, five (Brooklyn, Atlanta, Milwaukee, the Los Angeles Clippers and now, Denver) will begin the 2013-2014 season with new head coaches.
Two other postseason qualifiers, Boston and Memphis, may be in the market for a new coach as well.
Although C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has said he anticipates Doc Rivers returning next season as the Celtics' head coach (he has three years and $21 million remaining on his contract), Rivers has not made a public announcement on the topic despite doing multiple media interviews.
And Lionel Hollins' contract expires June 30, with a number of teams having expressed interest in him if he doesn't re-sign with the Grizzlies, who were swept by San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.
Seeing so many coaches leave after relatively successful seasons is a bit unsettling, Spoelstra says.
"That's a tough state for our business and where it is now," he said. "That doesn't correlate to an objective mind. People's expectations are way off, or just not looking at it objectively. That's tough. That's tough to see."
And Spoelsta, who is now completing his fifth season as the Heat's head coach, is now the third-longest tenured head man behind Rivers (nine seasons) and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich (17 seasons).
"That is scary," Spoelstra said.