DENVER — Nuggets coach George Karl
has been diagnosed with neck and throat cancer and likely will miss
some games and practices while undergoing a rigorous six-week treatment
program of radiation and chemotherapy.
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
"My desire is to do whatever I can to
stay with my team throughout the treatment that I have to go through,"
Karl said. "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, a survivor of prostate cancer,
said 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.
Karl informed his players that he was
battling cancer when the team convened earlier Tuesday for its first
practice since returning from the All-Star break.
"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."
Karl has coached Denver to the
playoffs each of the last five seasons. His 260 wins since joining the
Nuggets in January 2005 are the second most in team history.
The Nuggets are 35-18 this season and
leading the Northwest Division.
"One thing about coach Karl is he has
more toughness than I could ever imagine," said Thunder coach Scott
Brooks, a former Karl assistant. "He's battled it one time, he's battled
it with his son and now he's going to battle it again."
Saari said he found a large lump on
Karl's neck during a routine examination on Dec. 30. Karl said he had
been aware of the lump for some time but had assumed it was just fatty
tissue. An MRI and a needle biopsy were performed and results confirmed
the presence of a tumor approximately 2 inches in diameter, said Saari,
adding he informed Karl of the diagnosis at the end of January.
Karl, who recently signed a contract
extension with the Nuggets and coached the Western Conference All-Star
team last Sunday, was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2005.
His son, Coby, also is a cancer survivor.
"I think the major desire for me is
to kick this cancer's butt," Karl said. "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
While treatable, Saari, said Karl
faced a taxing treatment regimen.
He said the chemotherapy was
intended to make the cancerous cells in Karl's body more susceptible to
the effects of radiation.
Then, he said, "The idea is to really
hit it hard with radiation therapy."
But the radiation, to be administered
continuously for five days a week for the next six weeks, will take a
physical toll on Karl, especially during the latter portion of
treatment, Saari said.
"Coach is going to have a tough
time," Saari said. "The first three to four weeks, I think he is going
to do very well. The last 2 1/2 to three weeks of the therapy will be
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 don't care if it's a curable one
or uncurable. There's no guaranteed contracts in this gig. Doctors are
very confident, but mutations of cells come in different forms. We'll
just give it the best shot that we have."
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