To say that I was excited hearing the news that the Denver Nuggets had finally hired a head coach – Michael Malone, who was most recently the coach of the Sacramento Kings – would be a bold-faced lie.

And I was not alone. Collectively, as I predicted last week, Denver was not thrilled with the choice. The announcement that Malone was to become the Nuggets 21st head coach was met with a sigh, a groan, a “huh?” and a “who?” At best there was a quiet, perhaps sarcastic, golf clap. At worst, the Internet and talk radio were filled with venom.

Funny thing is, that’s exactly what Sacramento sounded like when the Kings canned Malone.

“You’re never going to see the type of outpouring, love and support from a community for a coach – like Michael Malone – who had a career record that was under .500; because he, for the first time in a long time, had this team going in the right direction.”

Those were the words of “Carmichael Dave,” a Sacramento radio host who spoke with “Big Al and D-Mac” on 104.3 The Fan yesterday afternoon. Translation: We loved the guy.

But how? Why?

A quick glance at the numbers doesn’t necessarily justify or explain a deep-seeded love affair between fan and coach. Malone was 39-67 overall as the Kings head man. In his first year, he led the team to 28 wins, which was the same win total Sacramento posted in the 2012-13 season, the year prior, under Keith Smart.

But as Carmichael Dave eluded, there was a feeling in SacTown that things were headed in the right direction. Malone was defensive-minded – he is widely credited for the installation of the Warriors defense that will be on display in tonight’s NBA Finals Game 6 – with the ability to handle the Xs and Os on offense. He was tough – “a New Yorker” – old school, straight-shooting. Carmichael Dave said, “He’s a basketball freaking Mozart.” Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins simply called Malone, “Real.”

And maybe he was all of those things. And maybe Kings fans were right. Malone’s team jumped out of the gates in the 2014-15 season at 5-1. At 9-5, though, they suffered a loss that ultimately did in Malone. On Nov. 28, Cousins, who was having a phenomenal season, went out with spinal meningitis. For the next nine games, all without Cousins, the Kings went 2-7. With a record of 11-13, Malone was shown the door.

Stylistically, there were rumors that Malone did not see eye-to-eye with then-Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro, who – ironically – is back in Denver (although it is widely speculated that D’Alesandro will not partake in day-to-day basketball decisions for the Nuggets; instead, he’ll hold more of a role that pertains to money and cap considerations). Still, Malone did not have his star player. As any Nuggets fan can appreciate, a team lacking its best players is likely one that isn’t winning.

When Malone was let go, it wasn’t just the fans who were upset – Cousins was publicly vocal about his own disappointment.

And maybe Cousins is truly the key in this whole situation. No coach can win in the NBA with a subpar roster. And even if a team is “so-so” instead of “subpar,” few coaches can win with personnel that aren’t tailor-made for their coaching style; Brian Shaw can attest to that.

So, while George Karl holds his clipboard in Sacramento, the point guard who guided him to 57 wins just two seasons ago is quietly holding a grudge in Denver. Meanwhile, as Malone packs his bags for Denver, the center who anchored his “there’s no getting to the basket” defense with the Kings may or may not be grouchy in Sacramento.

Of all people, Tim Connelly should know what happens when oil and water mix. Malone might be tough. He might be a basketball savant. He might favor playoff defense instead of flashy offense.

Wait, doesn’t this sound familiar?

That’s what we heard about Shaw. And while it’s not necessarily fair to compare the two coaches, it’s reasonable to suggest that the Nuggets had better not go down the same path, the one that pairs a gritty coach with a roster that was built to run. In the NBA, players and coaches must mesh; it’s a lesson that should have been learned recently in Denver.

Let’s say that it was. And let’s say that Malone is the right guy for the job. The onus is now on Connelly to not only build a better roster in Denver, but to also build one that fits – and in a hurry.

With D’Alessandro in the mix, this whole incestuous situation might just come full circle. D’Alessandro has an intimate knowledge of both situations – Sacramento and Denver – so the possibilities become more real. Why not swap Ty Lawson, and potentially Kenneth Faried, to the Kings in exchange for Cousins? Sacramento and Denver also hold the 6th and 7th picks in the draft respectively; perhaps there’s a swap (and maybe a gentleman’s agreement) there, too. Denver could leap forward and draft either a franchise point guard – say D’Angelo Russell or Emmanuel Mudiay – or a defensive-minded big man – say Willie Cauley-Stein – to anchor a gigantic front line with Cousins.

Connelly, with the help of D’Alessandro, must be creative for the Nuggets new head coach to truly succeed.

More than Kings fans and even Cousins, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich knows the game of basketball. If you’re looking for an endorsement of Malone, Popovich can provide it.

“(Malone) had a toughness about him,” the grizzled coach once told CBS Sacramento’s Dave Mason. “A fairness, but a toughness about him where I thought he’d persevere in all kind of situations and in an NBA season there’s all kinds of ups and downs.”

Popovich has five rings and has been named the NBA Coach of the Year three different times. His endorsement doesn’t necessarily make Malone a good hire; but his credibility on the subject is undeniably greater than those of us in Denver who “aren’t excited.”

But Popovich’s team has always been his kind of team. A yet-to-be-proven Malone needs that too.

Step 1 – hiring a coach – is complete.

Step 2 – rebuilding the Nuggets from the ground up – must now take place.

Otherwise, Malone will eventually go the way of Shaw.