The Denver Nuggets have settled on former Sacramento Kings coach Mike Malone as the team's new mentor. The 44-year-old Malone bested other hopefuls such as erstwhile interim coach Melvin Hunt and former Nuggets, Suns, Knicks and Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni.
The Denver Nuggets have reached an agreement to hire Michael Malone as coach, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 15, 2015
Malone and the Kings made a lot of strides last season by impressing in the first 10 games of the season behind the turnaround of center DeMarcus Cousins. The mercurial center is widely regarded as a coaching challenge and the relationship that Malone developed with the young big man earned respect of league observers.
The firing of Malone in December came as a shock given the renewed success found by the team and the slump in December mainly brought about by Cousins' viral meningitis. Malone, who also served as an assistant coach in Golden State, New Orleans, Cleveland and New York, convinced general manager Tim Connelly and team owner Josh Kroenke that he is the right person for the Nuggets’ head coaching post and can implement a system of “fast basketball and playing with pace,” which is the vision of Connelly.
Some awkwardness may also persist in the organization given that the Nuggets recently hired former Kings general manager Pete D’Allesandro into an advisory capacity. D’Allesandro and Chris Mullin were reportedly behind the firing of Malone in December and it is unclear how the situation will play out with the Nuggets.
The Nuggets are trying to recapture the success the team had when former coach of the year winner George Karl was at the helm. After letting go of the future Hall of Famer, the team hired Brian Shaw who found little success trying to implement a traditional offensive game plan that features a lot of half-court sets and post-up opportunities. The team still has a talented roster that includes point guard Ty Lawson, power forward Kenneth Faried and small forward Danilo Gallinari. The players reportedly backed Hunt for the full-time coaching gig, but some said they are receptive to the choice of Malone.
"Don't know him as a coach. I can't wait to talk to him," forward Gallinari said in an email to the Associated Press.