DENVER — The Nuggets fired coach Brian Shaw after 1½ seasons on Tuesday, with the team at 20-39 and on a six-game losing streak. Assistant coach Melvin Hunt will be the interim coach.
The timing of the dismissal was somewhat surprising given that just last week general manager Tim Connelly signaled Shaw's job was safe at least through the end of the season.
“You won't find a better guy than Brian, and he is one of the brightest basketball minds I've ever been around,” Connelly said in a statement Tuesday. “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.”
Shaw went 56-85 for a .397 winning percentage. The Nuggets have lost 10 consecutive games at home, one shy of tying the franchise record set in 1997-98. The team has nosedived since the All-Star break, and attendance has suffered.
Players wouldn't comment on Shaw's firing as they left the Pepsi Center after a meeting Tuesday morning before their game against Milwaukee that night.
Nuggets President Josh Kroenke said the team will look for a permanent coach after the season.
“This has been a trying season for all of us,” he said in a statement. “And we appreciate Nuggets fans continued faith and patience as we build our proud organization back to the NBA's elite.”
Shaw replaced George Karl, who was ousted after Denver won a franchise-record 57 games in 2012-13 only to be bounced from the first round of the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
Shaw's first season as an NBA head coach was marked by injuries and a long-running dispute with point guard Andre Miller. The Nuggets went 36-46, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. The Nuggets returned to health this season but failed to live up to expectations.
After winning three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers during his playing career, Shaw won two more as an assistant under Phil Jackson before becoming associate head coach of the Indiana Pacers. He interviewed for a dozen head coaching positions before Kroenke hired him on June 25, 2013.
Kroenke called Shaw a “champion and a gentleman.” He noted that since the Kroenke family purchased the franchise in 2000 “we have constantly strived to field a competitive team.” In noting the 10 consecutive playoff appearances and 57-win season in 2012-13, he said: “Expectations have been raised and we want more.”
“Decisions of this nature are never taken lightly,” he added. “Patience is encouraged, as long as the organization continues to show progress toward a greater goal. However, competing for championships is our goal, and therefore we decided to make this decision now and look forward to conducting an extensive head coaching search upon the season's conclusion.”