Why I Love Nellie


You have to love Don Nelson. I do. Maybe it’s because I cut my teeth in the NBA alongside Mike Montgomery, who was really a nice guy in his own right but tough on the media, but I love Nellie’s personality, his communication style, his realness. He’s like your grandfather or something.
He was on with Razor & Mr. T today and it was absolutely hilarious. He told this story about when he took Victor Alexander with him to this weight-loss place. He said Big Vic stayed in the room next to Nellie and his wife. Nellie said Big Vic and his girlfriend was getting their whoopie on “eight times a day.” They could hear them through the wall. Nellie said his wife was looking at him for similar love. Nellie’s response:
“I can’t keep up with this guy. Holy smokes. … She’s like, ‘Come on big boy. Let’s go.’ Are you kidding me?”
Classic. Name another coach who would tell that story on the air.
Another thing Nelson did during the interview was come clean about his contract situation. He said the whole retirement thing, the issues about him being tired and needing to think about whether he wanted to return, was all a negotiation ploy. Here are the highlights, other than the Big Vic story:

“I really wasn’t asking for the moon, I was just asking for what I’ve made the last 10 years of my coaching career, and that’s about what I’m going to make this year.”

Obviously, I signed for a lot less money when I got here because, evidently, I had to prove myself — over again. I sat out a year and maybe they thought I forgot how to coach. I don’t know. But, otherwise, it wouldn’t have gotten done. I told them that I wanted ($5 million) a year. That’s what I think is a fair contract for me, and they weren’t going to do it. I don’t believe they would’ve brought me in. So I really had to do what I had to do to kind of prove myself. Once I did, I asked for the same amount for the next year. I really didn’t want to retire, and I hated to make that [statement] that “I’m tired” at the end of the year. But I had to get their attention.”

“They weren’t going into my office to say, ‘This is what we’re going to do for ya.’ It was pretty quiet around there. Anyway, I had to get their attention or I don’t think it would’ve happened again.”

“I hated to do that. But, anyway, that was a way to get their attention and understand that I really wasn’t going to come back for the same amount. It’s just too hard a job to feel that you’re underpaid. Now I feel that I’m well paid and I’m making what I did, like I said, the last 10 years and I feel very comfortable about that.”

Let’s recap. Tthe Warriors wanted Nelson to replace Mike Montgomery. Nelson, as reported by other outlets at the time, was looking to get back on the bench. But the Warriors low-balled him. Nellie, not having any other options (he said Sac never even called him back), settled for the $3.1 million a year for three years.
So when last season ended, and he felt like he proved that he was worth more than he was making, he pulled the stunt to get the money he felt he originally deserved in the first place.
Why not just say, “I want more money and I’m not coming back until I get it” instead of the whole “I’m tired” cry? Probably because he would look like a greedy guy and not have the support of the fans, which certainly put pressure on the Warriors pay Nellie. His plan worked to perfection as most fans and media members expected and implored the Warriors to give Nellie whatever he wants.
How many people in the NBA would be as candid as Nellie about this stuff? I have yet to meet someone like that in the league. Say what you want about his tactics, I give him major props for coming clean.

Marcus Thompson

  • john

    I can tell you that for many of us, this “no bullshit” attitude is a factor of age. I don’t think Nellie was this way 10 or 20 years ago. But, as we grow older(and I’m in his same decade), you don’t care about hurting someone’s feelings by telling the truth. John Madden has a made a career of it. Another great thing about him, and a lot of us at this age, is the wealth of stories about players, coaches, colleagues, etc., that daily bring laughter to our friends and families. Just the other day I was telling a great story that no one heard about one of my favorite NFL player/characters, Dick “night train” Lane. I used to be a sports producer at KFRC,KCBS, and KGO-TV, and would cover many events. But this is not the venue to tell that story,.or is it?

  • JustPuked

    The world needs more old folks just telling it like it is. Bring on all the stories; let’s stop tip toeing around every audience for fear of offending one person. Just a few months ago, Marcus had to go all apologetic over a hazy at best 420 reference in one of his posts. Please. Get a life and let the man tell his frackin tale. Welcome back Nellie and keep on, keeping it real.

    BTW, nice point MT. Everyone has been bending over backwards to give Nellie credit for Mullin’s recent acumen at contract negotiations. As you insightfully pointed out, that started at minimum with the acquisition of Nellie himself. It’s kinda of hard to be the mastermind behind the fiscal wizardry when you’re the one getting squeezed before you’ve even arrived.

  • ewok

    Nellie outside the court is preety much what he does inside the court. He knows how to bluff and he certainly knows when to give up the bluff for his own advantage.

    The guy is really smart not with only with his vast knowledge of the game but his experience in reading potential talent as well as business as well.

    From my understanding, he will get 5.1 this year and next year, then he will under the magnifying glass and microscope on the third year. What this implies to me is this, With our present line up and the rate our team is peaking up, Something special as expected is bound to happen this year. I have a feeling we will reach the second round of the playoffs again. With the acquired experience and line up, I think the warriors are especting to be in finals the following year. If Nellie is succesful, The team retains him and if not, then he is placed on team option. But he will be a blue haired, team consultant for 200,000 a year for five years though. Not Bad for a retirement settlement.

    It is a fair contract. Does he deserve more. I think he does, but It was Dallas that shortchanged him, not us. He is also enjoying the benefit of riding on the momentum of the team as well….

    The success of the team will depend on the rotation of our big men who happen to be rookies though, B. Wright, Perovic, Lasme and Patrick O Briant. Of course there’s also the promise of Belineli. Overall, This Team is strong. It will run and it has more than enough gas octane for the whole season…. unless a fuel crisis erupts!

    Kelena Azubique is also a steal.

    The team can explode in pairs Davis, Ellis, it can play a deadly offense in combinations of threes and more Davis, Ellis, Jackson, Harrington, Biedrins. The Bench is deep.

    It will be a high scoring team. High Octane. I expect them to be in the final four of next year, Finals by next year.

    Lastly, MT. How about adhering to my suggestion and doing something about it if you agree with it….

    Do you know the song “IN THE STONE” by the Earth, Wind and Fire?

    How about using its exciting introduction as the team’s theme song during introduction. I think this intro clip would be very exciting to hear for the Fans, Im sure it will rock the house with energy and excitement. The Chicago Bulls have theirs. I believe they have the Alan Parsons project.

    Would you try it out and if you do agree with me, Do everything in your power to make this a reality?

  • Andrew Rosenblum

    Who knew Vic Alexander was such a stud?

    Also a blog question for you Marcus: one forum poster I just read breathlessly suggests that a deal for AK-47 for Harrington, S. Jask., and O’Bryant would work financially. Would you do that deal, or make some other kind of play for Kirilenko, particularly given that Nellie excels at motivating disenchanted players?

  • Andrew Rosenblum

    Who knew Vic Alexander was such a stud?

    Also a blog question for you Marcus: one forum poster I just read breathlessly suggests that a deal for AK-47 for Harrington, S. Jask., and O’Bryant would work financially. Would you do that deal, or make some other kind of play for Kirilenko, particularly given that Nellie excels at motivating disenchanted players?

  • john

    AK is, as he admitted, the fourth scoring option on the Jazz. He’s not worth giving up Jackson and Harrington individually or collectively.

  • Andrew Rosenblum

    Hi John,

    I agree Jax and Harrington is too much. But the trade I was suggesting was Harrington, Jaskevicious, and O’Bryant. I shouldn’t have abbreviated.

    Anyhow, I was just wondering if people thought Kirilenko was worth making a run for, since you can get him for very little, given his attitude problems and his huge contract. Except for Beans, the Warriors are very soft underneath, particularly on defense.

  • Marcus Thompson

    I like Kirilenko. I love how he can dominate a game on defense, and he’s a great fit fo rthe Warriors. But for me, he makes too much money. He doesn’t produce like a max player.
    If Utah is willing to pay some of the salary (I don’t even know if you can do that in the NBA), or if he takes a buyout and is a free agent, I’d like him for the right price. But nearly $16 million a year is too much for what he brings – especially since he has four years remaining. You can probably get similar production from Wright in due time, and for much cheaper.