By R.L. Bynum
George Karl, a star guard at Carolina in the early-1970s who coached in the NBA for 27 seasons, is one of 11 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2022. The inductees will be announced in New Orleans on April 2 at the Final Four.
Karl, one of the best playmakers in program history, would be the 12th Tar Heel in the Hall of Fame, joining coaches Ben Carnevale, Frank McGuire, Dean Smith, Larry Brown and Roy Williams and players Billy Cunningham, Bob McAdoo, James Worthy, Michael Jordan, Charlie Scott and Bobby Jones (who was the last inductee in 2019).
Karl was the Tar Heels’ starting point guard all three of his seasons in Chapel Hill, leading them to an NIT title in 1971, the Final Four in 1972 and the NIT semifinals in 1973, making All-ACC as a senior.
He played five seasons for the San Antonio Spurs, the last three as an ABA franchise and the first two as an NBA franchise.
Karl is one of nine coaches in NBA history with 1,000 victories. He was 1,175–824 (58.8%), ranking sixth all-time in NBA wins with 12 seasons of at least 50 victories and three seasons of at least 60.
Karl coached the Cleveland Cavaliers (1984–86), the Golden State Warriors (1986–88), the Seattle Supersonics (1992–98), the Milwaukee Bucks (1998–2003), Denver (2005–13) and the Sacramento Kings (2015–16).
Karl guided five franchises to a total of 22 playoff appearances, leading the Sonics to the NBA Finals (1996), was named the NBA Coach of the Year with Denver (2013) and was an All-Star Game head coach four times (1994, 1996, 1998 and 2010).
Karl averaged 12.3 points per game in leading Carolina to a 26–6 season and the NIT title his sophomore season, then averaged 11.7 points as a junior on the 29–5 Final Four team.
As a senior, Karl was UNC’s leading scorer (17.0 points per game) in the 1972–73 season when the Tar Heels were second in the ACC and made the NIT semifinals. He won the prestigious Patterson Medal in 1973.
Karl’s 192 assists in the 1972–73 season are still the third-best all-time for Carolina and his 394 career assists are second only to Charlie Scott’s 310.