By David Aldridge, TNT analyst
Posted Feb 16 2010 7:49PM - Updated Feb 17 2010 2:55AM
Denver Nuggets coach George Karl is expected to miss several games during the rest of the regular season while he undergoes chemotherapy treatments to deal with a recurrence of cancer, the 58-year-old told NBA.com Tuesday afternoon.
Karl will not take a formal leave of absence during his treatments, which have already begun, but will obviously not be able to be on the bench all the time during the treatment schedule.
He expects to miss at least a couple of upcoming games, at Golden State on Feb. 25 and at Minnesota on March 10. He said assistant Adrian Dantley would lead the team when he's absent.
His voice breaking at times, Karl revealed the diagnosis Tuesday night with his doctor, Jacques Saari, at his side and surrounded by his team and members of the Nuggets organization.
"My desire is to do whatever I can to stay with my team throughout the treatment that I have to go through," Karl said. "The treatment began today and in general it's about a six-week treatment of radiation therapy and chemo therapy.
"Basically, my belief is this is a championship team and I want to do anything and everything I can to help them continue in their quest that we all want."
Karl is a prostate cancer survivor, having undergone successful surgery in 2005 after his initial diagnosis. But the cancer that has been discovered this time is not in the same area, according to sources. Karl knew the diagnosis last week, before coaching the Western Conference All-Star team in Dallas.
Karl said he's still coming to grips with this second bout with cancer.
"Someone asked me the question, Have I come to terms with this one," he said. "I don't think I have.
"I think the major desire for me is to kick this cancer's butt," Karl said during Tuesday's news conference. "My hope and I think the doctors are very hopeful and confident that it is a curable and treatable disease. While my family has battled cancer, I'm somewhat of an amateur but it is something that has to be treated immediately. "I think I'm very blessed to have a great family and an organization that has supported me through all this, and great friends and a great team. I will need all of them in different ways. I don't think I'm a guy that needs sympathy but I do need support."
Karl is hoping to just miss nine games while he undergoes the chemotherapy treatments. He will coach the Nuggets for the next three weeks while the treatments continue, but will then take selected games off in March and April. The Nuggets return from the All-Star break on Thursday with a game at Cleveland, and play at Washington Friday before returning home for a Sunday afternoon game against Boston.
"I'm probably going to miss a couple of games in the middle of March," Karl said in a brief phone interview Tuesday. "And then come back, and then a game here and there... For me, not being a part of the team would be worse than being a part of the team and being out of it a little. My basketball family is my family, too."
Karl signed a one-year contract extension for the 2010-11 season last week after spending most of the season negotiating with the team for a long-term deal.
He informed the team of his diagnosis Tuesday afternoon.
"A situation like that, it's real life," guard Chauncey Billups said. "You take the basketball out of it. You take work out of it. None of us can really be selfish and say, 'Hey, we're going to miss George if he doesn't coach some of the games.' We've got to take all that out of it. Your heart just goes out to him and his family. All we can really do is pray for him."
It is not known whom the Nuggets will select to be their interim coach while Karl is out. His most veteran assistant coach is his longtime friend, Tim Grgurich, who is renowned around the league for his work with players on many teams at his summer camps in Las Vegas. But Grgurich is notoriously media averse. Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley has been an assistant coach in Denver for four seasons and is thought of by many as a potential head coach. Denver's other assistant is John Welch, in his second season after spending many years on the bench in college at Fresno State.
Karl has been with the Nuggets since 2005, when he won 32 of 40 games after replacing Jeff Bzdelik midway through the 2004-05 season. Karl has won two Northwest Division titles in Denver -- including last season -- and led the Nuggets to the Western Conference finals last year, where they lost to the Lakers in six games. He has 968 career victories as a head coach in 22 NBA seasons, including nine seasons with 50 or more victories.
Karl coached the Western Conference All-Star team last week in Dallas, although the Nuggets did not have the conference's best record. The Lakers did, but coaches are not allowed to coach the All-Star game in successive seasons, so their coach, Phil Jackson -- who coached the West in the 2009 All-Star Game -- was not eligible this season.
Karl's son, Coby, also has suffered from cancer. Coby Karl returned to Boise State in 2006 after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer, but he recovered and was able to complete school. Coby Karl was just released by Golden State last week after signing a 10-day contract with the Warriors. The separate diagnoses of father and son had a major impact on Karl, who was no longer the firebrand behind the bench that he'd been earlier in his career in Cleveland and Seattle.
He has become one of the chief contributors for Hoops for St. Jude, a program that supports St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, one of the world's best pediatric cancer centers. The Hoops for St. Jude program has drawn the support of several NBA players over the last two years, including Memphis' Rudy Gay, Minnesota's Kevin Love, the Lakers' Pau Gasol, Indiana's Danny Granger, the Clippers' Steve Blake and Houston's Shane Battier, who are each donating at least $20,000 this season and will make a separate per-point scored this season donation as well. Karl is also giving $20,000 to the effort.
"Eventually, after this kind of diagnosis, the family grows," Karl told ESPN.com in 2008. "You hear all kinds of stories from people that strengthen you. There are trees of communities out there -- people who want to help you. That's the silver lining of the whole thing."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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