Blog Entry

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Posted on: August 24, 2010 1:37 pm
Edited on: August 26, 2010 9:14 am
Posted by Matt Moore

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a few short weeks. To get you ready for the NBA season, we've put together 25 pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this brain teaser...

Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Do you realize Don Nelson's been in the league since 1962? As a coach since 1976? We're not talking, "he's been in and out of the league," either. We're talking at some point every single calendar year, Don Nelson has been on the payroll of a professional basketball team since 1962 (with less than a handful of hiatuses in between). With all the stress, intensity, drag, and confusion of the NBA, no wonder Nelson has adopted an... unorthodox strategy and attitude towards his job. In that time, he's won the most games in NBA coaching history, with teams in Milwaukee, Dallas, and Golden State.

But as the years have gone on and Nellie's teams have not only failed to achieve success, but have failed to adequately develop the athletic young talent they've drafted, the Heat has risen on the now-70-year-old coach of the Warriors. New ownership is in place, and they have brought with them talk that they may want to go in a new, younger direction. Nelson has said he'd like to finish the last year on his contract, but understands if they go in another direction. So the question may not actually be if this is Nelson's last ride, but if he'll be able to get on the horse to begin with.

As the Mercury News reports , the timing of the sale's finalization may leave no viable alternative to keeping Nelson on. However, there's ample precedent to removing the remainder to get a clean slate as soon as possible. Assistant coach Keith Smart could take over the team with the same run-and-gun system and the team can see how it goes. Then, if a change is still desired, the regime transition can be made on the schedule new ownership desires.

So what are the pros and cons of keeping Nellie for one last hurrah?

The benefits are largely built around stability, and the hope for a repeat of 2007. Nelson's success has been marginal, but when the team gets itself together, it can push the ball like no other, and that chaos gives teams fits. Keeping Nelson for his final year means that there won't be any drastic changes to what they know they can get from the players who have excelled under Nelson. A change risks those players taking a step back and struggling to adjust to whatever new wrinkles are implemented. And despite the numerous personal conflicts that have arisen with Nelson, he has become close to the players, including taking a number of them out for a beer last year. Insert joke here. But with as many young players as the Warriors have, that kind of relationship could be dangerous to disrupt, even if in general it's not ideal to begin with.

And that pulls us into the cons. You can talk about wins and losses, but for new ownership, for a team looking to change its direction, wins and losses aren't the first and foremost concern. Instead, they are likely focused on how the team develops. And that's been a dramatically lacking area for Nelson. Brandan Wright, Anthony Randolph, Monta Ellis, the list goes on in regards to players that have found themselves in Nelson's doghouse without any clear path out. While Stephen Curry excelled last season, his natural talent is going to get the bulk of that credit. (Hey, it may not be fair, but it's how it is. Ask Bulls fans who was responsible for Derrick Rose's progression, Vinny Del Negro or Derrick Rose.) Then, when we're past all that, and the win-loss record isn't good. Nelson's system is fun to watch and has its moments, but it also compromises fundamentals of winning basketball like defense. And defense. Mostly, defense.

But most importantly, Lacob and company have made it clear that they intend to turn over a new leaf with this team. That means a new direction and that means a new coach. The clock is ticking for Nelson in Golden State. He's made little to no noise about continuing his long ride after this horse is done with him. This really most likely is the end of the road for Don Nelson's historic career. We'll have to see if he's got any more tricks left in the bag on his way out.


Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:33 pm

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Well put...Nellie definitely has an eye for offensive talent and that can't be denied...While they may not play great defense, the other team still has to score more points then nellie's teams, and most are just not use to that fast pace and style...It's like playing against a no huddle team.

Since: Oct 9, 2007
Posted on: August 27, 2010 1:16 pm

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Can't develop young talent?? Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, Monte Ellis (2nd round pick), Latrell Spreewell (before he went nuts), Chris Webber (before he went nuts), Billy Owens, Stephen Curry, the list goes on and on.  Do some research hack.

Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: August 26, 2010 12:56 am

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Don Nelson's teams have traditionally excelled at disorganized, helter-skelter basketball and save for his MIlwaukee teams (which according to at least one analyst were the result of his assistant coach's efforts) were awful defensively. This is not to say that they were all horrid, but when he chips were down, their preferred method of playing defense was to let the other guys score so they could get the ball back! That is not a recipe for success in the NBA where every team has a plethora of talented scorers. the good teams know when it is time to stop the other guys. That is something that the vast majority of Neslon's teams couldn't do. When they absolutely had to get a stop, they couldn't do it. the classic upset in 2007 was aresult of a nightmare matchup for Dallas- they got the one team that they simply did not match up well against and a coach who knew their weaknesses. The better team lost in that series. But since that time, the Warriors have been essentially irrelevant. Injuries have certainly hit them hard, but they were never going to be a serious contender even if they had remained totally healthy.

Thus, I think that it is indeed time for Don Nelson to leave the NBA coaching scene. Staying on for one more year will do absolutely nothing positive for this young Warriors team and will simply delay the inevitable reckoning that must come. This team has no idea what kind of team it wants to be. The Nelson system thrives on wildly inappropriate mismatches, but if you mismatch at one end, the likelihood is that the opponent also will have a mismatch at the other end. Good teams figure these out and ultimately Nelson is not a great game coach - he does not adjust much in games and his playoff adjustments are similarly minimal. So yes, I think that it is time for the Warrior to push him out the door and look in another direction. Regardless of what happens this coming season, Nelson is not in the Warriors' future and both sides know it. I think I would rather start rebuilding now than waste another eyar of my young talent without gaining much in the way of useful analysis.

One commenter suggests that Nelson could be a good GM. I beg to disagree. Nelson might be of value as a scout, but handing him he decison-making power is akin to giving it to Isaiah Thomas (minus the personal failings Thomas has shown). Nelson is simply not a good decision-maker. Talent evaluator? Possibly. Give him a scout title and see what develops. But he would be a disaster as a GM until and unless he proves to be capable of making better decisions than he did in Golden State. He had much of the power there and it has not turned out well, since he drafts guys who fit his system, making it difficult to properly evaluate them, as I wrote above. 

Nelson's teams are fun to watch and return high entertainment value. but they are not and never will be serious contenders for anything other than the afore-mentioned 'Most Entertaining' award. Along with Mike D'Antoni's New York and Phoenix teams. And anyway, Nelson has got his record and should have his money. So it is time to walk away. And if not, hen the Warriors should cut ties and make a clean start. Ultimately I think that would be better for both sides.

Since: Aug 25, 2010
Posted on: August 25, 2010 8:06 pm

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

Nelly could play a part as aGM. He does have a eye for talent and with the right backing and situation , he could do well. But as a coach he seems to be distance and his coaching style not getting over to the players. So let him ease into a role of watching over a team and making some moves not in front of a chalkboard , drawing up plays.

Since: Sep 18, 2006
Posted on: August 24, 2010 3:47 pm

NBA Pop Quiz: Is this Don Nelson's last ride?

There is ZERO value in Nelly returning.  Nelly stopped caring about NBA basketball when he left Dallas.  He wouldn't have bothered caring in 2007, except the Warriors put on a playoff run.  Once the Warriors weent home, he went back to Maui and hasn't returned mentally since.

Any owner with an ounce of sense would have dropped him years ago; sadly, the Cohans kept him around for his 'player development' skills -- a funny concept because Nelly leaves all rookies except his special 'chosen one' on the bench.

Explain why ALL Warriors in the last five years improve once they leave Oakland -- it's simple, they get away from The drunken coach's personal playroom of hell.

Nelly wore his welcome out years ago; it's a pity he's too dense (scotch-adled?) to figure it out.

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