Ross Maak: Whoa, Nellie should be back with Warriors
Typically, I only watch NBA during the postseason.
The regular season, honestly, is a bore. As my Dad used to say (still does, for that matter), “Give each team 100 points and let ’em play the last two minutes.”
Same goes for the playoffs, but at least those games matter.
Anyway, I read recently that Don Nelson may come back to the Warriors next season, but he’s asking for more money. At first, I thought to myself, “Wow, one barely-over-.500 season and a decent playoff run (although they were only 5-6 in the playoffs this year) and he thinks he’s a big stud that can ask for the world on a silver platter.”
Actually, I didn’t think all of that. I got about halfway through thinking all that and remembered just how terribly horrible the Warriors have been since Nellie left all those years ago.
Here’s some statistics for you to chew on as you think about this. In Nelson’s last five full seasons with the Warriors back in the 1990s, he finished with a combined 220-190 record and took the team to the playoffs three times.
In the last five seasons before Nelson returned as coach (2001-2006), the Warriors posted an horrendous 164-246 record, never finished above .500 and never went to the playoffs.
In fact, they never went to the playoffs between Nelson leaving and Nelson returning.
Nellie, meanwhile, was 262-148 in his last five full seasons with the Dallas Mavericks. Four of those seasons saw Dallas earn a spot in the playoffs. And does anyone remember how awful the Mavs were before he arrived? Dallas topped 30 wins just once in the previous seven seasons.
With the Kings struggling last season and not showing a whole lot of promise for the season coming up, the Warriors may have caught the attention of NBA fans in Northern California.
And while the Kings have ruled the roost for the past decade or more in NorCal, the Warriors came storming back with a vengeance by breaking the .500 regular-season barrier for the first time in recent memory and becoming the first team to come in as a No. 8 seed and beat a No. 1 seed since the NBA went to a seven-game, first-round series format in 2003.
So, after considering all the above, when I heard that Nelson was looking for a pay raise (up from his below NBA-average salary last year), three words leapt to mind.
Pay the man.
Nellie has a long history of winning. In 28 seasons as a coach in the NBA, Nelson has 20 winning seasons. He has 18 playoff appearances. Overall during the regular season, he carries a 1,232-920 record and a .572 winning percentage.
And Golden State somehow convinced him to come back to Oakland and pay him in the bottom half of coaches’ salaries? How’d they do that?
Regardless, Nelson’s coaching career with the Warriors sandwiched 13 years of futility. What was the timeline? He took them to the playoffs. He left and they stunk. He took them to the playoffs.
That story alone caused me to actually start paying attention to the Warriors. I’m certainly not a fan, but I found it hard not to root for the underdogs with the up-and-down history and the prodigal coach returning. It was such a fascinating story, it even grabbed pseudo-NBA fans like me.
The good news for Warriors fans – and I think for basketball as a whole – is that (according to ESPN.com, anyway) Warriors’ top executive Chris Mullin said he has every intention of bringing Nellie back. Good.
Pay the man. He’s earned it.
To contact Sports Writer Ross Maak, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4244.
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