Can I be a bit of a fan, here?
Because I was more than frustrated with Don Nelson long before I started doing this out in public.
This was back when the Warriors were still owned by Chris Cohan, Chris Mullin had been ousted and Mikki Moore was playing center. And that was far from the worst indignity. There was also Nellie sitting in listless silence during timeouts, Nellie calling the local radio station from an Indianapolis bar—scotch in hand—as he killed Stephen Jackson's trade value. Toward the dark end, the man brought with him a sad kind of chaos.
Look, I hate to be a Grinch, and I realize that basketball Hall of Fame selection is pretty arbitrary and coach-oriented. Still, some standards should apply.
As in, don't run Chris Webber out of town after his rookie season.
As in, have a better winning percentage than .557.
Did Nelson have an impact? Sure, every coach running a small-ball lineup owes a hat-tip to the Don. But Nellie was like a royal taste-tester, trying everything so others could glean what works from the surely fatal. This likely has much to do with why Nelson never made a Finals over a long career, despite boasting a lineup that once featured both Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
And, somehow, you just couldn't quit him. He had the brash charisma of doppelganger Boris Yeltsin, a whimsical genius that moonlighted as self-destructive depending on the roster and the season. It was the type of swag that allows a man to grab power in the organization he once torched to oblivion.
I loved him. During the "We Believe" playoff run, I giggled myself into snorts over how Nelson held a beer during press conferences and predicted defeat for his guys. What an iconoclast!
I hated him. The bad slogged on longer than the good, and started to repeat itself like a sushi boat that keeps rotating the same rotted fish. More losses, more small-ball, less defense, more apathy. And repeat.
From that frustration, I started writing, and it is thanks to Don Nelson that I have this job. That bastard.
On the balance, looking back, he's an unforgettable, incorrigible character who probably shouldn't be rewarded. But of course he will be rewarded—Nellie always wins, even when he loses.
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