HoopsHype Don Nelson rumors


September 6, 2012 Updates

Q: OK, fine. How true is the statement that you had pretty much given up all hope of getting into the Hall? Don Nelson: Absolutely. I didn't think this was going to happen. I think I got rejected four times, so I had pretty well dismissed it from my mind. But I think Jerry Sloan helped me. He got in a couple years ago without winning a championship and I think that might have helped open the door for me. ESPN.com

Q: How much were you thinking about coaching when you were still playing with the Celtics? A: I never thought about coaching. I always wondered what in the world I'm going to do when I retire. That's why I tried refereeing [in summer league before joining the Bucks]. I didn't really know any coaches other than the Celtics' guys. I didn't get friendly with other coaches and I played so long with the Celtics that they were the only coaches I knew. I wouldn't have even known who to call. ESPN.com

Q: What's your reaction when you hear people talking about Nellie Ball? How would you define it? A: I suppose it means small ball, fast and exciting, point forward, players playing out of position ... all those kinds of things. It's kind of funny to me when people talk about stuff like that. I don't necessarily think it's accurate. You only play Nellie Ball when you don't have a very good team, or when you have a bunch of good small players and not many good big players. When you have bad teams, you've got to be creative to win games you're not supposed to win. ESPN.com

It's funny how that one glaring void on his résumé (a championship as a coach) never seems to bother him when he's enjoying the sort of retirement we all should envy, how the bad times he had (like, say, his unceremonious firing by Golden State in September 2010 that brought on retirement before he'd asked for it) have been erased from his memory bank and replaced with a daily dose of beauty and bliss. Nelson, who lives with his wife, Joy, in the town of Paia that sits on the famed Road to Hana, is content and without regrets. "I've had one of those very special lives, really," said the reflective and relaxed Nelson, who is 30 pounds lighter than he was at the end of his career. "I've been in the NBA since I was 22. It's almost 50 years of my life. ... I'm sure there's a lot of tears when you lose and all that, a lot of down times. But I can't remember any of them. They're all positive now. Even the bad times were good. That's kind of where my mind is right now. One of those storybook lives, really." SI.com

“My whole life has just been a lucky blessing,” he said. “The Boston Celtics was an example. I was waived by the Lakers. Not having a job and they call me up and give me a tryout and I’m there for 11 years and five championships. That’s the way my whole life has been.” Those close to Nelson thought he would enter corporate America after his retirement as a player, but he got a call from Bucks general manager Wayne Embry and agreed to joined Larry Costello’s coaching staff for the following season. Eighteen games into the 1976-77 campaign, Costello, who had led the Bucks to their lone NBA title with Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson, abruptly resigned. The 36-year-old Nelson was handed the responsibility of reviving a sagging franchise. And with his roster options limited, Nelson decided to speed up the pace with smaller, quicker players. “I like going to bad franchises and making good ones out of them,” he said. “I like building things, and that was the attraction, and when you are going to a bad team, they don’t have very many good big players. Boston Globe

Nelson’s relationship with Chris Webber in Golden State a decade and half later quickly decayed, leading to the budding superstar’s trade to the Bullets when management decided the duo couldn’t coexist. That is perhaps Nelson’s biggest personal regret, and it may have given him an unwarranted reputation as a coach who couldn’t blend with younger players. “Relating to players has never really been difficult for me,” he said. “There’s only a couple of players who haven’t enjoyed playing for me.” Boston Globe

Nelson would take those Golden State teams to three playoff appearances before having four more with the Mavericks in the 2000s, including a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2003. He had perhaps his greatest coaching moment when the eighth-seeded Warriors defeated the No. 1 Mavericks in the 2007 playoffs. “What I am most proud of is that I went to those teams when they were down, and when I left them, they were all better,” he said. “They had a chance when I left. If you were evaluating my career, you would say that’s what I did, what I enjoyed. “I thought I was always appreciated as being a good coach but I never thought I’d be in the Hall of Fame. The few years I didn’t make it, I just assumed it wasn’t in my future. But that happened now, too. So I got the cake, I got the frosting, and I will be able to eat it, too.” Boston Globe

September 5, 2012 Updates

How about the time he put 6-foot-7 Chris Mullin on 7-foot-1 David Robinson in a playoff series? That was quirky. Just like Mullin on 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton, also in the postseason. And Patrick Ewing as a point-center. Innovative. That was the tag Don Nelson got for decades of trying to lure opponents into mismatch hell as coach of the Bucks, Warriors (twice), Knicks and Mavericks. It was the quirky way he'd encourage Manute Bol to rain threes to force the defense to come out (in the days before zones, thereby opening the interior to give small-ball Golden State a chance to get to the rim) or maybe just to force a good laugh on people. Nelson's fish ties in Milwaukee, Bol launching from distance -- same difference. NBA.com

"I thought it was a positive response to my career," he said of the innovator label. "When you're not blessed to coach the best team for all of my career, really, you had to be innovative. The worse your teams, the more innovative you had to be as a coach to stay competitive and win as many games as you possibly can. That's just part of what I was forced into. If I would have been coaching the championship caliber teams, you'd basically just make sure you're solid at both ends of the court. You don't have to be innovative. And I was less-innovative with the good teams that I coached than the bad ones, for sure." NBA.com

August 30, 2012 Updates

On being a players’ coach and allowing his players more freedom than most coaches: Don Nelson: ”It’s just the importance of every game is so much greater now than when I first broke in. So much pressure to win, win, win. Coaches want more control over the game, stay in game. Once in a while it doesn’t work out, you get blown out. I always tried to train my players to do that on the floor – train them in practice so I didn’t have to do that in the games. “I’ve over-coached in my career as well, though, especially when I didn’t have a good point guard. Then you have to do more of it if you don’t have the leadership on your team. My style would be more like the international rules – where the coach doesn’t have as much control. You can’t call timeout every two mistakes. It’s harder to do that stuff. I think those are good things for the game. It’s bit different game now. There are only a couple of guys who play like I like to play that are left in the game.” CSNBayArea.com

A few other Nelson offerings of note: He despises the isolation game he once so effectively exploited; considers the European system of cutting, movement and passing as more appealing that the modern NBA diet of dribble-heavy, one-on-one play; regards his close friend, Gregg Popovich, as the league's premier coach; and admits that he desperately wanted the Minnesota Timberwolves job that went to Rick Adelman – "I would love to have coached Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love" – but insists his career victory total will stay at 1,335. Sacramento Bee

August 29, 2012 Updates

These days, he's Nellie, the entrepreneur. From his new shaved ice stand, to coffee plants and koa trees, to all his rental properties and a wedding venue in the works right off the beach, the 72-year-old Nelson is about as far removed from his old basketball life as he could be. MSNBC.com

He plays poker at least three times a week with his close-knit group of friends and has become a decent golfer. Those are the guys he called when he got word he was headed to the Hall. "I always kind of felt I was undeserving of getting there," he said. "I still feel unworthy, really. Somebody voted for me, I guess. ... I didn't have a feeling of what it would be. It's really nice. It's a pinnacle of everybody's career." MSNBC.com

August 18, 2012 Updates
May 9, 2012 Updates

Don Nelson has spent a lifetime hanging out with a bunch of 20-somethings. He did it for 14 seasons as an NBA player. He did it for 31 more seasons as an NBA head coach, compiling more victories than anyone else. And he'll do it Saturday morning, when he dons cap and gown and receives his degree in physical education from the University of Iowa in commencement ceremonies at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. "The reason I coached all these years was that I enjoyed so much being around young, talented people," said Nelson, who turns 72 next Tuesday. "This will be like coaching my teams, really. I love talented, young kids." USA Today

April 2, 2012 Updates

Five-time All-Star Reggie Miller and longtime coach Don Nelson are among a dozen players, coaches and teams that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2012 was announced Monday in New Orleans, the site of the Final Four. Also elected were two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, three-time college player of the year Ralph Sampson, four-time NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes, longtime referee Hank Nichols, and the All-American Red Heads, the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters. ESPN.com

Nelson coached the Bucks from 1976-87 and compiled a 540-344 record. That is easily the most wins in Bucks’ history and his winning percentage of .661 is the best among the 11 coaches in franchise history. Current Bucks coach Scott Skiles began his pro playing career in Milwaukee in 1986 under Nelson. Skiles said Nelson made an impact on him and felt it was inevitable before Nelson would be accorded the game’s ultimate honor. “It seems obvious to me,” Skiles said of Nelson’s selection. “He’s won more games than anybody else. He did it with different franchises. He was a three-time coach of the year (in 1983, 1985 and 1992).” Racine Journal-Times

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