The Denver Nuggets’ late-season fade and subsequent disastrous loss in a first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz has every fan questioning where the team will go next. It’s clear that several pieces are missing–notably, a concerted team effort and a capable, big man–but perhaps none are bigger than the presence of coach George Karl. With all due respect to assistant coach Adrian Dantley, the team was completely different without Karl’s fiery personality on the bench.

The Denver Post reports that Karl wasn’t oblivious to the way his team played without him, and that he plans to return to work sooner than later. Despite the fatigue he still feels, and that he’s still eating primarily through a feeding tube, Karl tells the Post that he’d like to start working two or three days a week in the next few weeks, and hopes to attend the Nuggets’ summer games in Las Vegas in July.

He was able to watch the Nuggets’ disappointing series against the Jazz, telling the Post, “The thing that killed me was the defense–we tried to win the game by outshooting them. Because of that, we didn’t find that special toughness to beat a team like Utah.”

But if fans are critical of the team’s effort, they’ve been nothing but supportive of Karl in his cancer battle. “I couldn’t have done it without Kim (Van Deraa, his life partner). She has been an angel,” Karl says. “The fans have been great. It’s been impossible to put in words how nice they are, how supportive and committed they are. They’re genuine.” –AJV