Don Nelson Rumors
One of the best coaches in basketball just entered another exclusive club. Gregg Popovich picked up the 1,300th regular season win of his career on Saturday, leading his San Antonio Spurs to a 120-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Only two other coaches have achieved that milestone: Popovich’s mentor Don Nelson (1,335 regular season wins) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332).
“I might get in trouble for this,” said Tim Hardaway, then Golden State’s star point guard. “Him and (Warriors assistant coach) Rod Higgins are really, really good friends. He (Jordan) came and practiced with us two or three times.” Indeed, Jordan dialed up Higgins while on a quick trip to California during the MLB strike of 1994-95 to see if he could lace up and run with the Warriors in secret. Upon receiving head coach Don Nelson’s enthusiastic approval, Higgins invited Jordan over, assistant equipment manager Eric Houssen outfitted him in Warriors threads and the games began.
The NBA’s all-time winningest coach sounded relaxed from his Maui residence. Don Nelson also sounded eager for San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to eclipse his league record among head coaches for most all-time wins. “I can’t wait until he gets that,” Nelson told USA TODAY Sports. “That will be a great day for me.”
Popovich also appears within striking distance of breaking Nelson’s record. While Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332) stand in first and second place among NBA coaches for most all-time wins, Popovich needs 48 more wins to top Nelson. With the Spurs (11-10) in 10th place in the Western Conference, how their mix of veterans and young players perform will determine both San Antonio’s playoff chances and if Popovich can further cement himself in the NBA record books. It also depends on how much longer Popovich wants to coach beyond this season after turning 72 last week. “He’ll get that after this year and one more probably,” Nelson said. “I hope he sticks around to get that record. I want him to have it.”
Already from the very first game, you had a chance to play for coach Don Nelson. How big influence did he have on your style of play? Marquis Daniels: Coach Nelson showed me that he believed in me and gave me a chance to show I belonged in the NBA. He allowed me to play numerous positions as well as showed me how to be effective on both ends of the court.
The winningest coach in NBA history was thrilled to hear the news that Steve Nash had been hired as coach of the Brooklyn Nets. And while predicting greatness is a dangerous thing, Don Nelson said that the former Mavericks’ point guard has a great advantage working in his favor. “He’s got a good team,” Nelson said Friday from his home in Hawaii. “And that usually makes you a good coach.”