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.