Christmas came early for Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone.

On the night before Christmas, the Nuggets and Malone — who’s deal was set to end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season — agreed to a contract extension the team announced via email.

The details Malone’s new extension were not announced in the email, per team policy, but this contract extension, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, will take him through the 2022-23 season, which means it is an additional two-year extension on top of the two-year extension he signed last year.

Malone took over head coaching duties of the Nuggets to begin the 2015-16 season — after being inexplicably fired by the Sacramento Kings — and Nuggets won just 33 games in his first season.

While 33 wins is far from anything near a winning season, Malone began to rebuild the mostly broken culture that he inherited. It took time, but as the years went along, the feeling of stability and a strong culture continued to increase, as did the number of victories.

In 2016-17, Malone made the decision to not only start Nikola Jokic — who was still almost entirely unknown at the time — but built the entire offense around him. Because of that choice, the Nuggets found their superstar and began to plant the seeds that eventually bloomed into the contender that they are today. Oh, and Malone increased his team’s win total from 33 to 40 wins while falling just one game shy of making the playoffs which would have been their first postseason appearance since the 2012-13 season.

In the 2017-18 season, the Nuggets began to find the basis of what could be a really good team. They were able to sign Paul Millsap — their biggest free agent signing in recent memory — to a three-year contract worth a total of $90 million. When Millsap spoke about the reasons he chose Denver during his introductory press conference, two of the reasons that he noted were the easy buckets he was going to be receiving from Jokic and his meeting with Malone.

While increasing the Nuggets win total from 40 to 46 is impressive, the most important development from that season was Millsap’s influence on Jokic and his passive style of play. Millsap — who was in Denver partly because of Jokic’s talent and Malone’s persuasion — was the person who was able to get Jokic to take ownership of the Nuggets as their best player and accept the role of being a star. That growth in Jokic being catalyzed by Millsap was as meaningful as any other moment of this iteration of the Nuggets and it would not have happened without Malone’s trust in Jokic and his meeting with Millsap.

2017-18 was also the year that Jamal Murray and Gary Harris started to show that they could be one of the better backcourt tandems in the league and ideal pairings offensively with Jokic. That fact can also be credited to Malone and his player development staff.

The Nuggets eventually lost their infamous play-in game on the last day of the regular season against the Minnesota Timberwolves and missed the playoffs by one single game for the second year in a row, but that was the year that the league was put on notice.

Last year, in 2018-19, Malone led the Nuggets to a 54-28 record, which was the second-most wins in franchise history. Jokic finished fourth in the Most Valuable Player race, was selected to his first All-Star game, and was also chosen as the first-team All-NBA center after averaging 20.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game.

Denver also made the playoffs first the first time since the 2012-12 season and won their first playoff series since 2008-09. During the playoffs, Jokic averaged numbers — 25.1 points, 13 rebounds, and 8.4 assists — that have only ever been accomplished by Oscar Robertson himself. Malone navigated a young Nuggets roster through two seven-game series — the first against the San Antonio Spurs and then against the Portland Trail Blazers — during their first experience of postseason basketball and answered many questions that people had about the Nuggets ability to prosper in the playoffs.

Over those four years, Malone has increased the Nuggets win total by 24 victories since their 30-52 season in 2014-15 — the year before Malone arrived — which is simply incredible.

Denver has gotten better each and every season and, after winning 54 games last year, the Nuggets are currently on pace to win 59 games in 2019-20 while sporting the second-best defense in basketball. Their offense has still not fully clicked, Jokic started the season very slow, and Malone has had to navigate extremely tough roster decisions with 12 viable options for his rotation, but regardless of all of that, the Nuggets sit in the second-seed in the Western Conference once again.

Those are just a handful of the reasons why Nuggets governor Josh Kroenke, president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, and general manager Arturas Karnisovas awarded Malone with his extension.

“We have been very fortunate to have Coach Malone lead our resurgence. His tireless work ethic and passion are clearly reflected in the continued improvement of our roster,” Tim Connelly said per team email. “We are all extremely excited for him to continue to lead our team as we try to build a championship level organization.”

One of the many buzz words to describe this Nuggets team is continuity. They have not mortgaged their future by trading their young and talented players for aging veterans. They have stayed the path and developed this team organically in house. While continuity with the roster has clearly benefited the Nuggets franchise, that is not the only type of continuity Denver prides themselves on.

Connelly, Malone, and Kroenke have all spoken about the idea of “alignment” and how important it is to sustained success. The Nuggets do not want to revolving door of head coaches and executives. Instead, they have stayed patient and allowed Connelly and Malone to develop; much like the Nuggets roster.

Keeping that continuity and alignment in tact was another reason for Malone’s extension, as Kroenke stated in the press release, and credit should be given to Kroenke for stepping up and getting an extension done early.

“This season and team has been about continuity, with Coach Malone being the first piece of that,” stated Josh Kroenke. “We are thrilled to continue to have him lead this promising young roster and are excited about what the future holds. Coach Malone has been pivotal in this organization’s success and will continue to be so.”

After such a frustrating dismal from the Kings, in a decision that can only been described as a panic move, Malone has now been rewarded with two separate extensions more than 18 months prior to his contract expiring by Denver. In terms of security, the Nuggets have taken care of Malone and in return, Malone has developed a team that seemingly has the best chance of bringing a NBA title to the Mile High City in franchise history.

It is safe to say that Malone and the Nuggets are both feeling thankful this holiday season.

“I would like to thank Josh, Stan and the entire Kroenke family, along with Tim Connelly and the front office, for continuing to believe and trust in me as their head coach,” Malone said per team email. “None of this would be possible without the hard work, dedication and trust from our players as well as the entire coaching staff. I’d also like to thank the amazing fans in Denver who have helped make Pepsi Center one of the toughest places to play in the NBA once again.

“I look forward to continuing our ultimate goal of winning NBA Championships.”