Warriors Nation loves Nellie, but we all know that he won't be here for more than 3-5 years. For a team that's gone through just a couple of coaches during the 12 year playoff drought (see The Dirty Dozen: Part I | Part II | Part III) that's definitely welcome stability of course. But after seeing how things played out in Dallas with last year's coach of the year and former Warrior great Avery Johnson taking the Nellie's Mavs to the NBA Finals, it's fun to think about who will the next Warriors coach. Scott Howard-Cooper for SacBee.com has the scoop:
Don Nelson has made his choice, again. He has tabbed Keith Smart, his assistant at Golden State and long considered a top bench prospect, to be his successor as the coach of the Warriors, a notable declaration even if it has little actual meaning.
Nelson's history makes it an important distinction and at the least an early look into a future in Oakland that could still be 2 1/2 seasons away. The last time he designated a replacement years in advance, Avery Johnson was anointed the prodigy in Dallas and, indeed, took over in 2005 when the relationship between Nelson and owner Mark Cuban frayed to the point of disrepair.
Donnie Nelson, Don's son, was given a similar elevation in stature before that but moved into the front office before Nellie's departure and remains president of basketball operations.
There is an important difference. Don Nelson was the personnel boss in Dallas and had the power to make coaching decisions, pending ultimate approval from Cuban.
At Golden State, Chris Mullin is the executive vice president of basketball operations and Nelson's superior, before any decision reaches owner Chris Cohan, but Nelson and Mullin are very close and known to be like-minded on many issues.
"He's just a natural," Nelson said of Smart, once the interim coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the pre-LeBron James days. "Kind of like Avery in that respect. He played for Bobby (Knight, at Indiana). He's got the whole package. And he doesn't have an ego. Avery has a big ego. Keith doesn't."
Keith doubles as a Smart scout too!
On a side note, all the credit Avery Johnson and criticism Don Nelson have gotten for the Mavs' playoff success last year is completely unwarranted. Avery's a great coach no doubt, but Nellie built that team from the ashes. The Mavericks were where the Warriors are now in the late 90's. It's one thing to coach and win with a good team, but another thing to build up a league-wide joke into a perennial championship contender. Nellie helped change the culture of that franchise. Let's hope Nellie has it in him to do it again for the Warriors.
Warriors in the NBA Fina- Okay, I won't say it and jinx us.
(And yes, I did think the title for this post was quite clever... Thank you! Thank you!)
Is Keith Smart the smart choice for the next Warriors head coach?