The following is the lead story from the latest SLAM Online email newsletter I got. Since I simply cannot figure out SLAM's website (so damn confusing!), imma just paste the whole dang thing here. If you're a SLAM employee and are upset by this, well, have your boss contact me so I can tell him I tried to link to it, but got lost in your jungle. (C'mon now!)
by Tzvi Twersky
Don Nelson may not be considered one of the best NBA coaches of all-time, but as of this past Wednesday night, when his Warriors helped him collect his 1,333 win, he is the winningest NBA sideline stomper ever.
With all those wins, three Coach of the Year awards and 31 seasons of gainful NBA coaching employment on his resume, why isn’t Nellie as revered as, say, Red Auerbach or Phil Jackson? Why isn’t he labeled "best coach of all-time?"
It doesn’t take a "Mad Scientist" (A nickname bestowed upon Nelson for his inventive offensive schemes and lineups) to know the answer: Championships.
Between his stops in Milwaukee, New York, Dallas and Golden State (twice), Nellie’s coached in 18 postseasons. Once in the Playoffs, Nelson’s winning percentage drops from a regular season career average of 56 percent (1333-1061) to 45 percent (75-91). It’s this lack of postseason success and the absence of a Championship—something Auerbach won nine of and Jackson 10—that has kept Nelson from garnering more respect.
Still, even aside from all the regular season wins, Nelson’s left an indelible stamp on the NBA game. The point forward position, a spot that’s been played by, among others, Toni Kukoc and Hedo Turkoglu, is said to be Nelson’s invention. Nelson’s also largely responsible for Dirk Nowitzki’s success in Dallas, having scouted him, drafted him and allowed him to continue playing as a 7-foot perimeter player. He’s also the brain behind the eighth-seeded Golden State team that upset the No.1 Dallas Mavericks in monumental fashion on the back of threes jacked from anyone at anytime on the shot clock.
Almost three seasons removed from that great season on the Bay, Nelson’s Warriors have combined to win only 53 games over the past two seasons. Worse than the losses, though, has been the turmoil surrounding those teams. With news of constant trade demands, controversy and health issues (the coaches included) coming out of the Bay, it appears that Nellie may have worn out his welcome with the Warriors—if not with the NBA as a whole.
So no, Don Nelson’s not the greatest coach ever. But he’s probably the most innovative and definitely the winningest regular season coach. That’s got to count for something, right?
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