Blog Entry

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

Posted on: September 23, 2010 8:25 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 9:25 pm
In a long-awaited changing of the guard, the Warriors are prepared to oust coach Don Nelson and replace him with assistant coach Keith Smart, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to The plan is to have Smart installed as the new coach in time for the Warriors' media day Monday.

The move has been contemplated within the organization since at least last November, when Nelson started what ended up being the season that saw him become the NBA's winningest coach with something that has become commonplace for him: feuds with two of his best players. Stephen Jackson eventually was traded, Monta Ellis was not, but Nellie stuck around long enough to eclipse Lenny Wilkens' record for wins. But his reign in Golden State appears to be over.

It took an ownership change -- from Chris Cohan to Joe Lacob and Peter Guber -- to finally persuade Nelson to step aside and let Smart, a respected assistant with a promising future as a head coach, take over. According to a person familiar with the team's plans, the new owners did not want to enter the season with Nelson again on the verge of retiring, re-signing or being fired. The details of Smart's contract are yet to be worked out, which is why no formal announcement is expected to come from the Warriors until they convene for media day Monday.

It is not clear whether Nelson, 70, will remain with the Warriors in an advisory capacity; he has one year and $6 million remaining on his contract. It was that remaining money, more so than Nellie's pursuit of Wilkens' record, that kept him from stepping down last season and letting Smart take over. In fact, one person familiar with the awkward unwinding of Nelson's Golden State tenure joked Thursday night, "I wonder if Nellie knows?" It wasn't necessarily a joke.

Nelson will long be remembered for bringing Nellieball to Golden State, the zenith of which was a stirring upset of a 67-win Dallas team -- Nelson's former employer -- as the eighth seed in the 2007 playoffs. But that was followed by three seasons in the lottery, the constant distractions and speculation over how long Nelson would hang around.

At least it appears that Nelson's departure from Golden State won't end with the same acrimony that marred his removal as Mavericks coach in 2005 -- but never say never. Until the details of the transfer of power from Nelson to Smart are finalized, it would be wise to withhold judgment on how amicably this will end. As of now, reports such as this one from Marcus Thompson of the Contra Costa Times indicate that Nellie will be getting is full $6 million even though he's resigning.

Smart, who turned 46 this week, will always be remembered for his heroic, game-winning shot for Indiana against Syracuse in the 1987 NCAA championship game. In Golden State, he'll quickly become known as a coach who runs a structured offense -- something Nelson long eschewed -- and also believes in defense. What's that? Huh? Defense?

Smart's resume bears all the markings of a coach who has worked his way up through the ranks the hard way. From the Fort Wayne Fury to the Dominican Republic to the Latvian National team, Smart has earned this. And he'll have the respect of the locker room -- a locker room populated by some fairly talented players, such as Ellis, Stephen Curry, Andris Biedrins and David Lee -- from day one. And day one will be Monday.

Since: Sep 25, 2010
Posted on: September 25, 2010 8:49 am
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Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: September 24, 2010 1:10 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)


This is the best news that Warriors fans could have asked for to be honest. Nelson's arrogant attitude with today's young players has been obsolete for many years. Golden State has a lot of talent, but yoo many similar players. I am not sure if that is Nelson's fault or ownerships. I see no reason why Curry and Ellis were drafted on the same team, too similar. Nelson's keeping players on the bench fr days was really a childish thing to do, very petty. Nelson was a pretty good player in his day and also a good coach for years, but has been a pretty bad coach for many years. It seems that upper management is somewhat intimidated by Nelson. Good to see a change here in the wild wild West.

Since: Jun 25, 2007
Posted on: September 24, 2010 12:53 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)


Couple thing you have wrong here. Warriors lost in 6 games to Utah and if it wasn't for some missed clutch free throws by Baron Davis and Michael Pietrus they would have been in the Western Conf finals. The Warriors led in the 4th qtr (with at least 6min to go) of every game in that series. The Warriors dominance over the Mavs went back to Mike Montgomery days. They also went 16-5 down the stretch just to make the playoffs. The Warriors won 48 games the last time they had a healthy roster.

Lets also not forget that if your weren’t coaching Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, MJ, Kobe, or Shaq over the past 25 years the odds are you not winning a championship. Nellie has never had the best players. And has never had the luxury of coaching a superstar.  He's made due with what he had. Do you remember how bad the Mavs, Bucks and Warriors (2x) were prior to Nellie. The Mavs were one of the worst franchises in the league (right up there with the Clippers) prior to Nellie. Now they have to be pushing a decade of good basketball. All set up by Nellie.

You can't talk about his rotations in the past couple of season and forget to mention that Warriors players have missed over 750 games since the 07-08 season. More than any coach in the league I think Nellie understands that using his team’s strengths is a quicker way to rebuilding than focusing on improving his teams weaknesses. Actually good team like the Boston, LA and Cleveland are actually better offensively than the Warriors. There offense allows them to play good defense.  Teams like the Suns and Warriors it’s the opposite their defense sets up their offense. Lets also not forget team like Boston, LA, Cleveland, Orlando and San Antonio have players like KG, Paul Pierce, Kobe, Gasol, Lebron, Duncan, Howard. That can’t get lost in the shuffle.

Longevity says a lot. If he wasn’t a good coach nobody would hire him. He revolutionized the NBA. Also check his coaching tree. There’s a reason why he’s been around so long. He knows how to make S$%# shine. 13 season of over 50 wins. 21 season over .500. 3x Coach of the year. Vote one of the NBA’s top ten coaches. That sounds like skill to me.

Actually keeping Nellie for one more year would have been a good idea if the new ownership thought this was going to a ‘throw away’ years and not serious at giving Keith Smart a legit chance at being the coach long term. Why not just let Nellie go on his farewell tour and have a year search for the right coach.

As a life long Warriors fan I happy with the decisions. I’m glad they stayed with a guys who has a relationship with the players. Smart and Silas sound to be able to relate to the players better and Smart was being groomed to be the coach anyway. It just happened a year early

Since: Nov 23, 2006
Posted on: September 24, 2010 12:33 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

Nellie in and this franchise had a chance, Nellie out they will head to the cellar of the NBA.

Since: Sep 24, 2010
Posted on: September 24, 2010 11:08 am
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Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: September 24, 2010 12:40 am

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

About time. Don Nelson teams (save for his days in Milwaukee) have always been known as entertaining teams with absolutely no chance to ever compete for anything meaningful. Case in point is that after the Warriors pulled off their epic upset, they were promptly escorted out of the playoffs by Jerry Sloan's methodical Utah Jazz. In five games, if memory serves. Nelson knew Dallas' tendencies and his team was perfectly positioned to exploit the mismatches. And his team and his staff did a superb job of exceeding expectations. But Nelson's Golden State teams were never serious contenders. Even the Run TMC teams in Oakland, as entertaining as those were to watch, were never really serious contenders, and if memory serves they never got beyond he second round of the playoffs. 


In addition, his behavior has become more and more bizarre over the past couple of seasons. His rotations have been shoddy, his relationships with his best players have been rocky and his utter disinclination for ever working on the defensive side of the ball makes his players well aware that against he better teams, they have no chance of winning. Playing all offense is fun, but if a team is going to win games, they have to get stops. The idea that one can simply outscore the opponent is an ideal that is long gone. Teams play defense too well - especially at the upper end of the brackets. Teams like Boston, LA, Cleveland (yes, Cleveland), Orlando, and San Antonio will not be worried by the helter-skelter approach of a team like Nelson's Warriors. They know that a mismatch on one end means a mismatch on he other end and playing with discipline trumps playing with emotion.


Keith Smart is reputed to be a good coach and he certainly acquitted himself creditably when Nelson was out over the past couple of seasons. Smart's teams played better defense and had a better vibe than he teams when Nelson was coaching. I am glad that he is getting an opportunity, and I hope that he is able to succeed. As for Nelson, it is time for him to take his record (achieved due to longevity, not to any particular coaching skill) and go to whatever pasture he prefers to spend his retirement in. it's time and past time for a chance in Golden State and I am unsurprised that the new ownership is making it before training camp. Keeping Nelson is simply in no one's best interests other than Nelson himself.

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: September 24, 2010 12:03 am

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

All I can say is FINALLY! Now I have hope the Warriors may actually make the playoffs. Thank you Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. And hiring Keith Smart is the right choice.

Since: Dec 7, 2009
Posted on: September 23, 2010 11:11 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

Nellie has a gift for resurrecting dead programs.  But he's not as gifted at taking them to the next level, and does have a way of spoiling the team chemistry that he helped to create, if he stays long enough.  'Thank you, Don" -- for what you've done with the long-moribund Warriors.  But it's time to move on.

Since: Dec 10, 2006
Posted on: September 23, 2010 11:04 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

Time for a change. It's as simple as that!

Since: Aug 11, 2008
Posted on: September 23, 2010 11:01 pm

Nellie out; Keith Smart in (UPDATE)

I lived in Rapid City SD back in the late 80's when Keith Smart played for the CBA Rapid City Thrillers one year. Great guy, good player and I'm really glad to see him get his chance. The Warriors need someone who can install a winning culture, He's got some good players to work with so I wish him the best.

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