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.
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
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
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
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
Vandeweghe was the first to pay the price.