The boss doesn't need to wear socks. Josh Kroenke, the young Nuggets president, sat last Monday with his right charcoal-gray pant leg crossed over the left, revealing sockless feet nestled inside designer loafers. He appeared not as much carefree cool as carefully cool, monitoring this shifting dynamic around him.

In front of Kroenke, draft prospects whisked down the court during a workout in the team's practice gym. To his left sat Pete D'Alessandro, the front-runner for the team's general manager job, Kroenke's consigliere. Standing near him was ex-Denver GM Masai Ujiri, who had recently bolted for the Toronto Raptors GM job, saying an awkward goodbye. And seated down the line of chairs was coach George Karl, whose fate in Denver, controlled by Kroenke, was hanging in the balance.

Reminded of the image late in the week, Kroenke chuckled. "There were a lot of different emotions at that point in time."

The 33-year-old Kroenke is unquestionably the boss of the Nuggets. He took over as team president in the summer of 2010, but never has his domain been more in flux. Ujiri, the NBA's executive of the year, took the Toronto job May 31. On Thursday, Kroenke fired Karl, the reigning coach of the year.
How does a franchise that posted a NBA-team record 57 victories with one of the league's youngest rosters now find itself without a general manager and a coach? And what does that say about the team's future?

The short answer is the Kroenke family has a stern belief in the way an organization should be run, that contracts won't be extended until they expire. And, despite the Nuggets' long run of regular-season success in recent years, Kroenke is far from satisfied. Some would argue that firing Karl was drastic, others would argue it was necessary for the long-term benefit of the franchise.

The following is a behind-the-scenes look at a critical juncture in the Nuggets' history:
Cloud of uncertainty

It started with a handshake and, in many ways, ended with it, too. A year ago at this time, with talk that Ujiri would look into the Philadelphia 76ers GM job, Kroenke went to Ujiri's home. They sat on the couch. Kroenke, proud and emotional, even shed some tears. He and Ujiri already had been through the "Melo-drama" — being forced by star Carmelo Anthony to trade him out of town. Kroenke wanted to lock in Ujiri as his front-office cohort for the long term.

They agreed that night to a multiyear deal for $1.2 million a season, sources said. But it was a handshake deal intended to be signed later, as Ujiri still had a year left on his contract.
As anyone who has negotiated with the Kroenke family knows, they take contractual obligations seriously. Finish one contract, then work on the next. Even former Avalanche GM Pierre Lacroix had to wait on an extension, this after his team won the Stanley Cup. Throughout the 2012-13 season, Kroenke steadfastly believed he had a deal with Ujiri. But, Ujiri got antsy as the season wore on and there was no pen-to-paper agreement.

Meanwhile, Toronto loomed on the horizon. Kroenke would say in hindsight he was always wary of the Raptors, the team Ujiri worked for prior to Denver.

During a trip to Toronto in a previous season, Kroenke saw first-hand how much Ujiri enjoyed the eclectic and electric big city. And Ujiri remained close with numerous team executives there with whom he had worked.

And so, when Toronto called to interview Ujiri in May, Kroenke was stuck. He believed his handshake agreement with Ujiri was still sturdy, but soon Kroenke realized he might lose the executive of the year.
Many point to the five-year, $15 million contract Ujiri got as the main reason he left. But Kroenke revealed Friday at a news conference that Ujiri told him not to try to match it.

Why? Kroenke believes that even if he matched Toronto's offer, Ujiri still would have left to go "home," a word Masai used in his introductory news conference with the Raptors, a word that "made it clear" to Kroenke that Ujiri preferred Toronto to Denver. (Ujiri, in Italy for draft scouting, did not respond to messages when asked about this).

Ujiri's departure suddenly made the Pepsi Center office an unsettling place for employees. Prior to him leaving, as one employee described it, everyone was "in a bubble," working on offseason plans, looking forward to building on this past season's success, confident there would be no changes at GM or coach.
Yes, the team has stumbled in the first round of the playoffs, for the third consecutive time since the Melo trade, but the Nuggets were young and getting better under Karl.

But, with Ujiri suddenly gone, uncertainty started to creep into the mind of Karl. And Kroenke.