Don Nelson: Wikis


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Don Nelson
Don Nelson in March 2009
Position(s) Forward
Jersey #(s) 19
Born May 15, 1940 (1940-05-15) (age 69)
Muskegon, Michigan, USA
Career information
Year(s) 1962–1976
NBA Draft 1962 / Round: 3 / Pick: 1

Selected by Chicago Zephyrs

College Iowa
Professional team(s)
Career stats (NBA)
Points     10,898
Rebounds     5,192
Assists     1,526
Stats @
Career highlights and awards
Medal record
Competitor for  United States
World Championships
Gold 1994 Canada USA

Donald Arvid Nelson (born May 15, 1940 in Muskegon, Michigan) is a former NBA player and currently is a National Basketball Association head coach. He was named the head coach of the Golden State Warriors on August 30, 2006, his second stint with the franchise. He has also coached the Milwaukee Bucks, the New York Knicks, and the Dallas Mavericks. Don Nelson's overall NBA coaching record is 1,327-1,055 as of March 16th, 2010[1].

An innovator, Nelson is credited with, among other things, inventing the concept of the point forward, a tactic which is frequently employed by teams at every level today. His unique brand of basketball is often referred to as Nellie Ball. He was named one of the Top 10 coaches in NBA history.

Nelson is currently the oldest active head coach in the NBA and is also one of four active coaches with at least 1,000 victories.


Playing career

After a very successful high school career at Rock Island High School (IL) Nelson graduated from the University of Iowa in 1962 as a two-time All-American averaging 21.1 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. He was drafted 19th overall by the Chicago Zephyrs of the NBA. He played for the Zephyrs one season, and was sold to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1963. After two years with the Lakers, he was signed by the Boston Celtics.

In his first season with Boston, Nelson averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, helping the Celtics to the 1966 NBA title as one of their role players. Four more championships with Boston followed in 1968, 1969, 1974, and 1976. In Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals, against his former team the Lakers, Nelson converted one of the most famous shots in playoff history -- a foul-line jumper which dropped through the basket after hitting the heel of the rim and bouncing several feet straight up. The shot, taken with just over a minute to go in the game and the Celtics clinging to a one-point lead, helped secure Boston's 11th NBA title in 13 seasons.

A model of consistency, Nelson would average more than 10 points per game every season between 1968-69 and 1974-75 (before the introduction of the three-point shot). He led the NBA in field-goal percentage in 1974-75. Nelson was coined as one of the best "sixth men" ever to play in the NBA. He was also known for his distinctive one-handed style for shooting free throws. Nelson retired as a player following the 1975-76 season. His number 19 jersey was retired to the Boston Garden rafters in 1978.

Coaching history

Nelson took over the reins as general manager and head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1976 and began to show what would later become his signature style of wheeling and dealing players. He made his first trade of Swen Nater to the Buffalo Braves and turned the draft pick he received into Marques Johnson, who had a solid career with the Bucks. He earned NBA Coach of the Year honors in 1983 and 1985. It is also in Milwaukee where Nelson became known for his unorthodox, innovative basketball philosophy. He was known to have introduced the concept of the point forward - a tactic wherein small forwards are used to direct the offense. In Nelson's tenure with the Bucks, he used 6-5 small forward Paul Pressey for the role. This enabled Nelson to field shooting guards Sidney Moncrief and Craig Hodges or Ricky Pierce at the same time without worrying about who would run the offense. This system created a lot of mismatches and enabled Nelson to lead the Bucks to Central Division championships and playoff berths for most of the 1980s. He would leave Milwaukee after ten seasons, seven with over 50 wins.

After a year's hiatus, Nelson then became Coach and Vice President of the Golden State Warriors, and was named NBA Coach of the Year a third time. In Golden State, he instilled a run-and-gun style of offense. Again using an unconventional lineup which featured three guards (Mitch Richmond, Tim Hardaway and Sarunas Marciulionis) and two forwards (Chris Mullin and the 6-8 Rod Higgins at center), Nelson led the Warriors to many winning seasons and playoff berths despite an under-sized lineup. He continued to retool his lineup and drafted talent such as Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell. It was during this time that he reached the peak of his fame, due to his style of offense enabling Hardaway, Richmond, and Mullin (also known as Run TMC) to emerge as premier players. After four winning seasons, he left Golden State following a prolonged public dispute with Webber and a 14-31 start.

He was invited to coach the Dream Team II at the 1994 FIBA World Championship in Toronto. He accepted and led them to the Gold Medal.

In 1995, Nelson would begin his stint with the Knicks, which lasted from July 1995 until March 1996. Despite coaching the Knicks to a respectable 34-25 record, Nelson had many personal problems with the players: e.g., he tried to convince management to trade Patrick Ewing in order to be in a position to make an offer to rising free agent Shaquille O'Neal.[2] He also favored a more up-tempo style of offense, sharply contrasting the hard-nosed defensive style of play that the Knicks had employed under Pat Riley.[3]

Nelson was named Head Coach and General Manager of the Dallas Mavericks in 1997, and led them to four consecutive 50-win seasons. The trio of Steve Nash, Michael Finley, and Dirk Nowitzki became the foundation for their dramatic turnaround. In Dallas, Nelson created an offensive powerhouse in which every player could score at any time. However, lacking interior defense - as the front court with Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Bradley and Nowitzki was weak in the paint - they never reached the NBA Finals.

One notable result of Nelson's tenure at the helm of the Mavericks was the introduction of the "Hack-a-Shaq" defense to the NBA.

On March 19, 2005, Nelson stepped down as Dallas' Head Coach, naming Avery Johnson as his successor. Nelson retained his job as Dallas' GM until after the season, when he named his son, Assistant GM Donnie Nelson, as his replacement. The Mavericks reached the NBA Finals in 2006.

On August 29, 2006, the Golden State Warriors bought out Mike Montgomery's contract and hired Don Nelson to take over the team again. Nelson's Warriors won their final five regular season games and qualified for the 2006-07 playoffs.

Nelson faced his old team, the Mavericks, in the first round of the playoffs. The Mavs were managed by his son, Donnie, and coached by his protege, Avery Johnson. In one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history, Nelson coached the 8th-seeded Golden State Warriors to victory over the top-seeded Mavericks in six games. The Warriors went on to lose to the Utah Jazz.

Nelson currently coaches the Warriors. He has declined to talk about his plans for future seasons.[4]

Nelson married Joy Wolfgram at the Oakland Coliseum in 1991. Nelson has five grown children. He lives in Hawaii during the off-season.

Coaching record

Regular season   G Games coached   W Games won   L Games lost
Post season  PG  Games coached  PW  Games won  PL  Games lost
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL Result
MIL 1976–77 64 27 37 .422 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
MIL 1977–78 82 44 38 .537 2nd in Midwest 9 5 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1978–79 82 38 44 .463 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
MIL 1979–80 82 49 33 .598 1st in Midwest 7 3 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1980–81 82 60 22 .732 1st in Central 7 3 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1981–82 82 55 27 .671 1st in Central 6 2 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1982–83 82 51 31 .622 1st in Central 9 5 4 Lost in Conf. Finals
MIL 1983–84 82 50 32 .610 1st in Central 16 8 8 Lost in Conf. Finals
MIL 1984–85 82 59 23 .720 1st in Central 8 3 5 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
MIL 1985–86 82 57 25 .695 1st in Central 14 7 7 Lost in Conf. Finals
MIL 1986–87 82 50 32 .610 3rd in Central 12 6 6 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
GSW 1988–89 82 43 39 .524 4th in Pacific 8 4 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
GSW 1989–90 82 37 45 .451 5th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
GSW 1990–91 82 44 38 .537 4th in Pacific 9 4 5 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
GSW 1991–92 82 55 27 .671 2nd in Pacific 4 1 3 Lost in First Round
GSW 1992–93 82 34 48 .415 6th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
GSW 1993–94 82 50 32 .610 3rd in Pacific 3 0 3 Lost in First Round
GSW 1994–95 45 14 31 .311 (fired)
NYK 1995–96 59 34 25 .576 (resigned)
DAL 1997–98 66 16 50 .242 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DAL 1998–99 50 19 31 .380 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DAL 1999–00 82 40 42 .488 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
DAL 2000–01 82 53 29 .646 2nd in Midwest 10 4 6 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
DAL 2001–02 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 8 4 4 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
DAL 2002–03 82 60 22 .732 1st in Midwest 20 10 10 Lost in Conf. Finals
DAL 2003–04 82 52 30 .634 3rd in Midwest 5 1 4 Lost in First Round
DAL 2004–05 64 42 22 .656 (resigned)
GSW 2006–07 82 42 40 .512 3rd in Pacific 11 5 6 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
GSW 2007–08 82 48 34 .585 3rd in Pacific Missed Playoffs
GSW 2008–09 71 29 53 .357 Missed Playoffs
Career 2316 1309 1007 .565 166 75 91



On December 29, 2001, Don Nelson became the third coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games, behind Lenny Wilkens and Pat Riley. Nelson won his 1,300th career game on February 21, 2009, joining Wilkens as the only coach to pass this milestone.


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