Turn out the lights, Nellie’s party is over. Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber, the new owners of the Warriors have had their wishes come true. The NBA’s all time winningest coach, Don Nelson, has resigned as head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a position he has held since 2006. Both Lacob and Gruber have wanted to oust Nelson since acquiring the franchise in mid July despite the fact that the sale of the team to the both of them by Chris Cohan has not been ratified by the league as of yet. Nelson will be replaced by assistant coach, Keith Smart.
The move is not expected to be finalized until later this week, but Nelson is definitely on the way out even though he has one year left on his contract worth approximately $6 million dollars. Nelson will receive the money he is entitled to under his current contract. Smart is expected to be announced as the Warriors new head coach in time for the team’s media day which takes place on Monday, just before the start of training camp which begins Tuesday. Nelson was actually a proponent of the new ownership hiring Smart as the new head coach. Smart is expected to sign a multiyear contract.
With Nelson’s resignation, one can only hope that there could be the off occasion of a wild small ball lineup in Golden State next season. Newly acquired players such as David Lee will never find themselves a part of the mad genius schemes that Nelson was apt at cooking up. For some this will be a blessing. Actually, many will cheer this change after the Warriors dismal previous two seasons. Yet, it leaves us to wonder how he might have schemed with Golden State’s present roster. Who would not want to see on the floor concurrently the likes of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry, Jeremy Lin, Ekpe Udoh, and Lee? Well, Golden State fans for one. As for the rest of us, we will have to take such a lineup to the court on either NBA Elite or 2K11.
Nelson’s style of coaching has been much maligned wherever he has been a head coach. The lineups he employed were frequently unorthodox by NBA standards but have helped to shape the present state of the game. His small ball approach to the sport has now become prevalent across the league as many teams are discarding the traditional center in place of a more mobile big man with the ability to both run the floor and knock down a perimeter shot. This year’s incarnation of Team USA, which won gold at the FIBA World Championships, can give a lot of credit to Nelson’s style of offense as they were truly undersized with Lamar Odom as their starting center. If that is not derived from Nellie’s style of ball then what is?
Yet, his style also burned bridges. In both Golden State, the first time around, and Dallas, his stints as coach and subsequent departure from those organizations left a bad taste in the mouth of ownership and resulted in law suits over money that Nelson claimed that he was still owed by the teams. Certainly, not the best parting gifts. For Dallas, his departure was even bitterer as he led his eight seed Warriors past the one seed Mavericks, the season following his release as head coach, in the first round of the playoffs.
After recently returning from vacation in Hawaii, Nelson had remained optimistic about coming back for the 2010-11 season but knew the writing was on the wall and chose to resign rather than be let go. It has become widely believed that Nelson was given the option to save face and retire as the team was going to fire him in favor of hiring Smart no matter what. Last season, Nelson surpassed Lenny Wilkens for the most wins by a coach in NBA history on April 7, 2010. His accumulated wins total stands at 1,335 to go along with 1,063 losses in 31 seasons as a head coach in the league. He coached the Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks, and Warriors twice during those 31 years.