December 28 2004, 8:58 PM
The Denver Nuggets' firing of Jeff Bzdelik as head coach today is one of the least surprising sports stories of the year. Last year, the team refused to grant Bzdelik a contract extension, even though he had coached the team to one of the all-time best single season turnarounds in NBA history. When the Nuggets made the playoffs, Bzdelik earned a one-year extension and a bonus, but that didn't seem to improve his standing with team management. This year, the Nuggets hired former UNM Lobos and L.A. Lakers star Michael Cooper as an assistant coach. During a national telecast earlier in the season, the announcers pointed out that Cooper had a three year contract, while Bzdelik's contract is to expire at the end of the season, and observed that it looked like the team had already hired Bzdelik's successor. The Nuggets denied any such thought, but guess who was introduced as the team's interim head coach today -- Michael Cooper. Bzdelik was never on the same page as General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe, so it is no surprise that he got fired as soon as the Nuggets went on a prolonged losing streak -- never mind the fact that stars Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin have both missed games with injuries. I'll miss Bzdelik's hilariously deadpan postgame interviews -- you had to love lines like "I told the team, play defense or eat it" delivered in a monotone. Here's wishing Jeff Bzdelik great success wherever he ends up next in the NBA.