Under difficult cir*****stances, Adrian Dantley takes charge of the Denver Nugge

Adrian Dantley has the single most difficult job in this NBA postseason
and he knows it. His players know it, as does everybody who plays
against his Denver Nuggets. All Dantley is being asked to do is lead a
team of headstrong characters with championship aspirations deep into
the playoffs while the man best suited to coach them, his boss George
Karl, battles throat and neck cancer.

"Thrown into the deep end," is how Dantley described his predicament in a recent conversation. "More than anything, it’s about managing personalities, keeping the guys together in a really difficult time."

It got even more difficult late Monday night when the heavily favored Nuggets, playing at home, lost Game 2 of their best-of-seven playoff series with Utah, even though the Jazz played without two injured starters who are out for the series. It’s quite a predicament for anybody to be in, much less a bench neophyte, a man whose reputation was forged as a prolific scorer, first at DeMatha High, then at Notre Dame where he was collegiate player of the year nearly 35 years ago, then in the NBA for 15 seasons where he twice led the league in scoring. His became, officially, a Hall of Fame career two years ago.

Even so, it was star-crossed. Dantley is the only rookie-of-the-year to be traded, and was dealt in a swirl of controversy by the Detroit Pistons weeks before they began their back-to-back championship run. And now there’s this, trying to coach a group suited to Karl and perhaps only Karl. Nothing about being the substitute teacher is favorable.


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