Nuggets parting ways with GM Kiki Vandeweghe

Updated: May 6, 2006, 6:04 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Kiki Vandeweghe won't be the one fixing the Denver Nuggets this summer. Team owner Stan Kroenke said Friday that he's not going to extend his general manager's contract.

Garrett Ellwood/Getty ImagesVandeweghe guided the Nuggets back to the playoffs, but not past the first round.

Vandeweghe reshaped the Nuggets and returned them to respectability after taking over as GM on Aug. 9, 2001, but speculation about his future ran rampant all season as Kroenke stayed silent regarding an extension.

The 47-year-old Vandeweghe met with Kroenke on Friday, four days after the Nuggets bowed out of the playoffs in the first round for the third straight season.

"After meeting with Kiki today, we agreed his contract will not be extended. We appreciate the time he spent with the Nuggets and wish him good luck as he seeks out his next challenge," Kroenke said in a statement. "We remain focused on attaining our goal of establishing a team that consistently competes at the highest levels and will make every effort to achieve that goal."

Kroenke didn't say if he had anyone in mind to replace Vandeweghe.

Although there's no real urgency to get a personnel man in place because the Nuggets don't own a first-round selection in the June 28 draft, there are many issues confronting the club this offseason.

Star Carmelo Anthony is eligible for a contract extension of some $80 million and there's the question of what to do with fiery forward Kenyon Martin, who was suspended in the playoffs for insubordination.

Coach George Karl also issued a plea this week for more shooters after the Nuggets' dismal performance in the playoffs, although his wish list didn't stop there.

"How about four?" he said. "Can we get a big man who can make a shot? Can we get a true shooter on a 3-point line? Maybe a scorer and a shooter? A penetrator?"

Vandeweghe didn't answer a phone call from The Associated Press on Friday, but in a statement released by the team, he said: "I am truly grateful to Mr. Kroenke for the opportunity he gave me and for everything I have learned from this experience. I am excited about moving in a new direction."

Vandeweghe began his 13-year NBA playing career in Denver in 1980 after leading UCLA to the national championship game as a senior. Vandeweghe, a two-time All-Star, averaged 23.3 points in 293 games for the Nuggets.

Denver was expected to jump into the elite echelon of the Western Conference this season but injuries and inconsistencies did them in. Although the Nuggets won their first divisional title in 18 seasons, they were bounced from the playoffs in five games by the Los Angeles Clippers.

Afterward, Vandeweghe said he would go to work as usual even though his contract was set to expire Aug. 1 and there were no signs Kroenke wanted him to stick around.

"The first thing is to get over this loss and get our team healthy," he said Tuesday. "After that, I'm sure we'll sit down at some point to discuss my situation. That's all I can do."

Vandeweghe reshaped the Nuggets during his tenure, changing them from a perennial lottery team to one that won its first division title since 1988 despite injuries to forwards Nene and Martin and center Marcus Camby, among others.

He got Nene and Camby in a draft-day deal from the New York Knicks in 2002. But his best move came a year later, when he selected Anthony with the third pick in the 2003 draft, and the Nuggets improved their win total by 26 and reached the playoffs for the first time since 1995.

He acquired Martin in 2004 from the New Jersey Nets for three first-round draft picks, which he had stockpiled through a series of deals, and Karl came aboard midway through last season and led Denver to the playoffs again.

This season began with high expectations but Nene went down in the opener with a torn knee ligament that sidelined him all season, and the team never found a rhythm on the court or chemistry in the locker room.

Vandeweghe was the first to pay the price.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press