Denver Nuggets coach George Karl's status has become "unsettled" following the departure of general manager Masai Ujiri for the Toronto Raptors, two sources close to the situation said late Saturday night.
Karl, who was named the NBA's coach of the year following the Nuggets' 57-win season, is not in any imminent danger of losing his job, the sources stressed. But Ujiri's departure, coupled with Denver's disappointing first-round playoff exit, has shaken things up in Denver to the point that Karl, who is under contract for just one more season, could, incredibly, begin the season on the hot seat after winning the league's top coaching honor for the first time in his long career, instead of beginning extension talks.
The Los Angeles Clippers have had initial conversations with the Nuggets about Karl, league sources said, but have yet to officially request permission to speak with him.
The Clippers have yet to formally interview any candidates, but they have had preliminary discussions with ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, Indiana associate head coach Brian Shaw, former Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry, and former Cleveland head coach Byron Scott. ESPNLosAngeles.com reported last week that Van Gundy and Shaw are regarded as the front-runners at this point, but that the situation remains fluid, as the Clippers look to replace the departed Vinny del Negro.
The Clippers have told candidates that they prefer to hire a coach with experience, sources with knowledge of the situation said, giving Van Gundy something of an edge. But an exception would be made for Shaw, who has received strong endorsements from several players, most notably Lamar Odom, and has coached or played in nine conference finals and has championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Denver president Josh Kroenke gave Karl a vote of confidence after the season, telling the Denver Post that, "George is under contract for next year. At this point in time, we haven't really given any thought to making any change whatsoever. As we do at the end of every season, we'll have internal meetings and George will obviously be a major part of them."