OAKLAND, Calif. -- The sudden resignation of Golden State Coach George Karl extends the series of setbacks that have devastated the Warriors this season.
Karl resigned in the middle of his second season Wednesday following a lengthy mid-morning meeting in San Francisco, during which Karl asked team owner Jim Fitzgerald for a contract extension and was refused.
Assistant Ed Gregory was named interim coach to replace Karl, who had taken the team to a 16-48 record. Gregory made his debut a success Wednesday night when the Warriors downed Sacramento, 126-118.
However, Fitzgerald has confirmed he wants former Milwaukee coach Don Nelson to take over next season. Nelson, currently a Warriors front-office official who has said he doesn't want to return to coaching, promised to give the matter some thought and said he would probably make up his mind 'in a week or two.'
Fitzgerald said, 'There were a number of things we (he and Karl) were talking about. Oddly enough, we started off by talking about an extention of his contract. Then during the course of the meeting, it swung to other things, and then this (his resignation) came up. Going down in the elevator with him after the meeting, I felt he had a great sense of relief.'
Karl said in a written statement the Warriors' dismal season had affected him.
'The pressures of losing combined with personal frustrations led to my decision,' he said
Karl captured the hearts of Bay Area fans last year when he directed Golden State to its first playoff berth in 10 years. The Warriors defeated Utah in the first round, but lost to the eventual champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, 4-1 in the Western Conference semifinals.
Karl opened the 1987-88 season with great optimism, but that quickly dissipated under an avalanche of trades, injuries and player problems.
Leading scorer and team captain Purvis Short was traded to the Houston Rockets before the regular season. Starting guard Chris Mullin underwent treatment for alcohol abuse and missed a month of the season.
Center Joe Barry Carroll and point guard Eric 'Sleepy' Floyd were traded to Houston for center Ralph Sampson and guard Steve Harris. After flashes of brilliance, Sampson suffered a knee injury. Power forward Larry Smith then became lost for the season after landing on the injured reserved list for the fourth time, leaving the team without its two best rebounders.
Ironically, Golden State home attendance has increased,and the Warriors are drawing their biggest home crowds at the Oakland Coliseum Arena since the championship days of the mid-1970s.
'Looking at the situation as a whole,' Karl said in his statement, 'it seems to me that this is an appropriate time to go our separate ways.'
Karl previously was fired under almost identical circumstances March 16, 1986, in his second season as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers struggled following their first-ever playoff appearance the previous season.
Fitzgerald said of the emotional Karl: 'Some guys can't take a loss, and George is one of them.'
Karl's exit from the NBA may be short-lived. The former North Carolina star has been rumored to be on a list of contenders for the head-coaching job of the expansion club in Charlotte, N.C.
Fitzgerald, who hired Nelson to coach the Bucks in 1976, said he hoped he could lure him back into the coaching ranks.
Nelson joined the Warriors in July following a 10-year stint as Bucks coach. Over that span, Milwaukee went 540-344, won seven Midwest Division titles and reached the playoffs nine times.