Gregg Popovich learned of his friend George Karl’s firing from reporters

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  • Gregg Popovich
    Gregg Popovich
    Basketball coach

We’ve had a strange preponderance of major stories broken during the latter stages of the 2013 NBA playoffs, which is the reason that even the most curmudgeonly of NBA coaches and executives still have a smartphone on their person at all times to keep up with the latest emails, texts, or even tweets behind some of the bigger offseason moves.

Still, some of these guys have to coach teams. And towards the end of Thursday’s final shootaround prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was caught off guard at the surprising but understandable news of the Denver Nuggets letting George Karl go.

Luckily for us, the San Antonio Express-News’ Jeff MacDonald was around to cover Popovich’s thoughts, as he learned of the dismissal of his long-time friend:

“What did you say about George?” Popovich asked a questioner.

Right around the time of the Spurs were finishing up a shootaround in preparation for Game 1 against Miami tonight at AmericanAirlines Arena, a Yahoo! Sports report surfaced indicating that Karl was to be relieved of his duties after nine seasons in Denver. Karl later confirmed the report himself through Twitter.

“That’s a huge surprise,” Popovich said. “I don’t know what’s true and what’s not. I haven’t heard any of it. … He’s an all-time great coach. I don’t know the circumstances, so I’m not going to say anything else besides that.”

Coach Pop did go on, in general terms, discussing the “volatile” nature of the NBA coaching scene.

As many as 12 new head coaches could be taking to new jobs to start the 2013-14 season, and even though Popovich is the NBA’s longest-tenured coach, he knows the drill. Hell, he’s the guy that had to fire his predecessor, Bob Hill, just a month into the 1996-97 season. A season that saw Hill lose a series of games early on mainly because Spurs center David Robinson was out with a broken foot. Cruelly for Hill, and badly for Popovich’s image, Robinson returned on the same day that Hill was let go.

Bob Hill needed to go, though, especially after a disappointing postseason run the spring before. The firing and timing of Robinson’s return didn’t look good for Coach Pop’s introduction as head coach, but it turned out to be the right move. Only time will tell if both the Nuggets and Karl are better off parting ways right now, taking in that fresh start, but all early indications seem to point to as much.

It’s still tough to hear about your friend losing a gig he’s had and mostly enjoyed for over eight years, especially stuck right in the middle of attempting to prepare your team to take down the defending NBA champions.