Karl's health is 'much improved'

Updated: June 15, 2010, 1:58 PM ET
Associated Press

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl skipped a charity golf tournament because he wasn't feeling well enough to play, sending his son as a substitute.

And his son brought along a cheery update on his dad's battle with throat and neck cancer.

Nuggets guard Coby Karl said he thinks his father will be back on the bench for the start of next season after missing Denver's playoff run as he recovered from an intense six-week regimen of chemotherapy.

"From the way I see it, I think there's no doubt in my mind," Coby Karl said Monday after playing in a tournament put on by the American Cancer Society. "But you've got to take it on a day-to-day basis with the situation."

George Karl is on his way back after an arduous ordeal that led to a feeding tube being inserted into his stomach because the efforts to kill the tumor caused mouth and throat sores that made swallowing food too painful.

Coby Karl said his father has lost a lot of weight and still struggles to eat.

"But he's definitely much improved from when I got here for the start of this," said Coby Karl, a cancer survivor himself after having lymph nodes removed a few years ago. "He's doing well. But his energy level isn't up to par with what he needs to do out on a golf course for multiple hours at a time."

That hasn't prevented George Karl from dropping by the office from time to time, just to return some phone calls and keep in the loop. He even traveled to Milwaukee recently to visit some friends.

As for the NBA playoffs, he's been constantly watching.

"He's a basketball junkie," his son said. "He sees almost every game that he can, unless he's traveling or he has a prior engagement. I would say he's seen about 90 percent of the playoffs."

George Karl, who turned 59 in May, has said he intends to return to coaching later this summer, health willing.

With Karl out and assistant Adrian Dantley running the team, the Nuggets were eliminated by the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.

Being a spectator instead of coaching proved rather difficult.

"It was tough for him," Coby Karl said. "I think he was well aware of it and understands the situation that he needed to take care of his health first. And so did the team. I think it will work out for the best and I think he's excited about coming back next year."

This is Karl's second bout with cancer, beating prostate cancer several years ago.

Kim Van Deraa, Karl's life partner and mother of their young daughter, has written in her blog that Karl's energy level is slowly rising. Karl twice has been hospitalized with blood clots in his legs or lungs following his six-week radiation and chemotherapy treatment.

"It's tough seeing him in the situation," his son said. "To see someone as strong as he is go through it and see how it floored him like it did, it's definitely humbling and it's scary at the same time."


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press