Nuggets fire Bzdelik |

Nuggets fire Bzdelik

** FILE ** Denver Nuggets head coach Jeff Bzdelik reacts to a play against the Miami Heat during the third quarter Friday, Dec. 17, 2004, in Miami. The Miami Heat won, 107-100. Bzdelik was fired Tuesday Dec. 28, 2004 as coach of the Nuggets. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

DENVER ” Jeff Bzdelik was fired Tuesday as coach of the Denver Nuggets, who are on a six-game losing streak and struggling despite the addition of Kenyon Martin this season.

Assistant Michael Cooper was appointed interim coach.

Denver was expected to move near the top of the Western Conference after signing Martin, an All-Star power forward. So far, however, the Nuggets have been hurt by injuries and inconsistency.

The Nuggets started the season without power forward Nene and have used 10 different starting lineups, with star forward Carmelo Anthony missing the past five games with a sprained ankle.

Shooting guard Voshon Lenard, Denver’s only legitimate outside shooting threat, was lost for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon in the opener.

Denver opened the season 2-5, won 10 of its next 12 games and has lost eight of its last nine, dropping to 13-15 after a 104-101 loss to Golden State on Monday night.

Bzdelik was a longtime assistant and scout under Pat Riley in Miami and New York before getting his first head coaching job with the Nuggets in 2002. Though Denver struggled to a league-worst 17-65 record in his first season, Bzdelik was credited with turning the Nuggets into a hardworking, defensive-minded team.

A roster overhaul and the addition of Anthony made all the difference last season. The Nuggets improved by 26 games to 43 wins ” the sixth-best turnaround in NBA history ” to reach the playoffs for the first time in nine years.

Through all the success, Bzdelik wasn’t able to get any security from the front office. General manager Kiki Vandeweghe refused to give Bzdelik a contract extension last season and it seemed the only reason he was back this year was because of a contract clause that called for his option to be picked up if the Nuggets reached the playoffs.

Bzdelik was 73-119 in just over two seasons with Denver.

Cooper, a member of the Los Angeles Lakers’ “Showtime” teams of the 1980s, coached the Los Angeles Sparks to two WNBA championships and a finals appearance in four years before joining the Nuggets as an assistant this season.

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