12:25pm: The firing is official, the team announced. Hunt will be the interim coach through the end of the season, the Nuggets also confirmed. Denver will conduct an “extensive” search for a head coach after the season, the statement also indicates.
“I want to sincerely thank Brian for his time with our organization,” Connelly said. “You won’t find a better guy than Brian and he is one of the brightest basketball minds I’ve ever been around. Unfortunately things didn’t go as we hoped, but we know with his basketball acumen that he has a very bright future ahead of him.”
11:40am: Hunt will indeed be the interim coach, and he’ll fill that role for the balance of the season, a source tells TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link). Hunt, a holdover from George Karl‘s staff, has been an assistant in Denver since 2010/11. He was previously an assistant coach with the Cavs, Lakers, and Rockets, and it was Houston that gave him his start as a video coordinator in the 1990s.
11:36am: Assistant Melvin Hunt is the front-runner to assume the job on an interim basis, but that’s not set in stone, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Denver plays tonight against the Bucks.
11:23am: The Nuggets are letting go of coach Brian Shaw, a source tells Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post. Dempsey indicates that the move took place this morning, though the team has yet to make an official announcement. Denver has dropped 17 of its last 19 games amid roster turnover at the deadline. Shaw insisted Monday that his team’s “1, 2, 3 … six weeks!” chant during Friday’s game wasn’t a reference to the time left in the season but instead to the number of weeks since the team’s last home win. Either way, it wasn’t a positive omen for the coach. It’s not immediately clear who will replace him.
GM Tim Connelly said nearly a month ago that the team had no plans of firing Shaw before season’s end, but it appears as though the team’s continued losing has changed that stance. The second-year head coach, who turns 49 in a few weeks, has been publicly critical of his players this season, one in which the Nuggets had hoped the return of several who’d missed time last year with injury would boost the club into contention for a playoff berth.
Shaw was reportedly making about $2MM a year in the second year of a three-year deal he signed when the Nuggets hired him in the summer of 2013. The pact includes an option for a fourth year, presumably belonging to the team.
The coach’s job security seemed to take a negative turn earlier this season after the Nuggets had stiff-armed a pursuit from Knicks team president Phil Jackson, who previously employed Shaw as an assistant with the Lakers. Speculation that Shaw was in danger began in November amid a 2-7 start, but a five-game winning streak brought the team back to .500. The Nuggets haven’t seen the break-even point since they were 9-9 in December, and even that wouldn’t have put the Nuggets in line for a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference.
Shaw tried unconventional methods this season, doing away with shootarounds and even rapping pregame personnel reports, as Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald noted. Still, it wasn’t enough amid a season in which the Nuggets current roster has only Will Barton and Jameer Nelson to show for a series of trades in which the team relinquished Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo, Nate Robinson, JaVale McGee and Alonzo Gee. It appears Shaw will finish his Nuggets tenure at a combined 56-85 for this season and last.
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