Denver Nuggets President Josh Kroenke says he doesn't care about awards, he wants banners

Kroenke fired coach George Karl Thursday

DENVER - Denver Nuggets President Josh Kroenke says while it was a difficult decision to let NBA coach of the year George Karl go, he's only interested in one thing and that's the future.

"I understand there maybe unease because of the awards that were won. It was a very successful year with 57 wins and Coach and Executive of the year (awards). But at the end of the day, I'm not here to win awards.  I'm here to win banners," said Kroenke at a news conference one day after firing Karl.

"I'm incredibly excited about the opportunities ahead of me, Kroenke said.

Kroenke said he expects to team to get off to a slow start next season because Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari will be out until next year due to knee surgery. Kroenke said he didn't want to put Coach Karl into a situation like that during contract extension talks.

"If we start off slow, it would be an impossible situation to put a coach of that stature in," Kroenke said. "While it was a tough decision, I felt it was the right one to make at this point in time."

Karl had one year left on his contract when he was fired Thursday.

"It's a sad day for me, my staff and my family. Difficult to understand but memories are best I've ever had," Karl tweeted at 11:41 a.m. "I want to thank Nuggets fans for their support over the past 8 yrs. [sic] The karma on the street was incredible. Denver will always be home."

Kroenke said former Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri was not here when the decision was made to fire Karl.

Karl's firing came just six days after Masai Ujiri -- who won NBA Executive of the Year -- left the team to accept a five-year, $15 million contract to run the basketball operations of the Toronto Raptors.

"No matter who is in the front office or coaching staff or on the court, our mission is the same; to bring an NBA Championship to Denver," Kroenke said.

7SPORTS anchor Lionel Bienvenu said it's probably first time in history a team has had the NBA Executive and Coach of the Year both leave after the season.

Kroenke said Ujiri was a great friend who left for a job with the first organization that gave him a chance in the front office. Kroenke said he felt that even if he had matched the salary the Raptors offered Ujiri, Ujiri wanted to go to Toronto.

Karl was hired on Jan. 27, 2005 and led the Nuggets to nine consecutive playoff appearances and a regular-season record of 423-257. He finished second in all-time Nuggets wins behind Doug Moe with 432 wins.

Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke turned over the Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche to his 33-year-old son in 2010 in order to win NFL approval for the elder Kroenke to become majority owner of the St. Louis Rams.