Capitals

Nuggets coach hit hard by Majerus' death

201212012043745920002-p2.jpeg

Nuggets coach hit hard by Majerus' death

DENVER (AP) Denver Nuggets coach George Karl said he is still having a tough time dealing with the death of his friend, former Utah and Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus.

Karl spoke about his friendship with Majerus, who died of heart failure Saturday night after being hospitalized for several months.

``It's still very hard for me,'' Karl said before the Nuggets played Toronto on Monday night. ``He's one of my best friends and I think most people in basketball know that. I'm mad at him, I'm angry he's gone, there's a lot of emotions going on in my head. Most of it is I've got to figure out how to celebrate our friendship for the rest of my life even though he's not going to be with us.''

The two became friends while working at the Pete Newell Big Man camp at Stanford University in 1986 and the friendship grew over the years. The camaraderie extended to Karl's family, who considered Majerus one of them.

``Incredible friend. He treated me like I was his brother,'' Karl said. ``My son called me and said he was part of our family. He's been with Coby since he was in sixth grade. A lot of roots, a lot of stories and a lot of love.''

While Majerus was known as a college coach, Karl invited him to work with the Nuggets and offer insight over the past seven years. Several times he referred to Majerus in the present tense.

``He has a tremendous instinct on how to put a team together,'' Karl said. ``We have tremendous philosophical differences in a lot of things, but team and how the team works and who plays well with each other and how to incorporate strengths and weaknesses, he was always was there to help me make the next step with my team.

``Training camp, playoffs, in the season, he has a tremendous way of making me feel confident about who I am as a coach. He was always good in that way.''

Majerus, a Milwaukee native, compiled a 517-216 record over 25 years with Saint Louis, Ball State, Utah and Marquette. Majerus guided the Billikens to their first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years last season. The Billikens, who finished 26-8, upset Memphis before losing to Michigan State.

He took Utah to the 1998 NCAA championship game, where the Utes lost to Kentucky. That team featured three future NBA players - Keith Van Horn, Michael Doleac and Andre Miller, who plays for the Nuggets.

Karl praised Majerus' record despite not having top-tier recruits.

``He never had the blessing of having the best talent in college, but he had an incredible record in Utah, he had an incredible record in producing NBA players,'' Karl said. ``Andre being one of them.''

Quick Links

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

usatsi_10850115.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

Quick Links

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!