Report Card: Coaching Staff

Last season, I considered Nellie a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate. This season – though the team added 6 wins to it’s record from last year – I don’t think he did as good a job. As a matter of fact, I think he had as much of a hand in the Warriors missing the playoffs as anyone. That said, he did a solid job. I don’t know how many coaches could squeeze 48 wins out of this roster. I thought they’d get 42 or 43 wins and miss the playoffs. I wasn’t sold on the hype, so Nellie gets credit for making the Warriors practically a 15-win team.

The assistant coaches, from what I could tell, had a big hand in keeping that locker room from falling apart. They did the ego massaging and explaining that Nellie wouldn’t.

• 48-34 record
• Nurtured Ellis into a productive force despite his obvious flaws. Though Nellie believes Monta’s brightest future is at PG, he didn’t stubbornly stick to that and went with a small backcourt. Turning Monta loose was at SG was key to the team’s success
• Same thing applies for Biedrins. Nellie would much rather a center who can shoot from outside. But he, instead, milked Biedrins for what he could bring. He probably shouldn’t get kudos for that, as that is what coaches do. But with Nellie’s judgemental coaching style, its worth mentioning
• Gave responsibility to Keith Smart, presumably the next head coach. Smart ran practices, led the huddle during timeouts, addressed the team in the locker room after games, etc. It is important that the players see Smart as head coach when he does take over, and Nellie helped make sure that happened by letting Smart spend some time in the big chair.

• Ran Baron and Jackson into the ground (and tried to run Monta in the ground) because of his lack of faith in reserves. Justified or not, you can’t play 82 games with seven players.
•He ruined a lot of players confidence, which is counterproductive to the task at hand. His irregular rotation and sharpe tongue didn’t bring out the most in everyone – namely Harrington, Barnes, Pietrus and Azubuike.
•Failed to get rookies of the future much-needed playing time, which means they’ll still be green next year (not so much B-Wright), just like Kelenna and Patrick were still raw this year. It’s hard to believe Belinelli and Watson couldn’t give anything if given some decent playing time.

One argument is that the Warriors won 48 games and that is a major plus. But another argument is that they misses the playoffs by a game because they couldn’t beat a suspect Denver team at home. Nellie is a major reason for both.
GRADE FOR COACHING STAFF: B- (the assistant coaches boosted it up from a C+

Marcus Thompson

  • MountainJim

    You can’t be suggesting that Kelenna was raw this year because he should have played more last year. The guy got pulled from the D-League and played a lot for an end of the bench guy, which you’d expect a D-League player to be. You might as well say he’s greener than he should be now because he lost playing time to his knee problems.

    It’s a fair argument to say he needed to deepen his bench early, especially after they climbed out of the 0-6 hole so quickly. While they may have lost a few games because of inexperience, they may have won a few more because of the added energy. They sure were worn out at the end, not much doubt about that. And I’m in the camp that says Wright should have played more and earlier, even if he did get more minutes than the other rooks. He changed the game for the better most times he got the chance, just with hustle and quickness.

    Interesting point about “the assistants” managing the locker room. I’d be curious what the team thinks of various assistants and what the roles of the assistants were. I never see that discussed much.

  • JustPuked

    It’s interesting that you bring up the assistant coaches. I saw a stat somewhere that Smart’s record as a Head Coach in the NBA is something like 8-34. Everyone sees how much Avery has struggled to keep Dallas from having a Tin Heart. It makes one wonder just how valuable being Nelson’s chosen heir really is. Then again…Popovich…’Nuff said.

    As a fan, we don’t get to peek behind the curtain very much to get a feel for how Smart, Riley, Silas, Turner etc. are really doing. They toil out of the limelight and as such, their work goes mostly unrecognized by the public. For me, the true test of how valuable the assistant coaching staff is will be how ready Wright, Belinelli and Perovic are to contribute next year. Otherwise, this year’s grade is all about Don Nelson.

    This year Nelson basically ignored long term development and did what he thought he had to do to get to the playoffs. It was bad luck that the West was the toughest it’s ever been. The Warriors overall had amongst the fewest games lost to starters for injuries and/or suspension so out goes that excuse. Nellie and Co. had plenty of time to adjust for the condition of their bench and they made the gamble to ride their starters. That gambit failed: Mission unaccomplished.

    Ironically, not making the playoffs is probably for the best in the long haul. Baron and Jax were gassed and would have had nothing left for the playoffs the way Nellie used, and some would say, abused them. A sweep by the Lakers was on the horizon. On the flip side, it may have kept the market values for Baron, Biedrins, Barnes, Azubuike, and Pietrus from increasing in their contract years. No such luck for Ellis though. The 14th pick in a talented draft also isn’t going to hurt. But back to coaching…

    Nelson and his assistants didn’t consistently have the team ready to play lesser team, nor ready to give the effort necessary to play consistent defense. The root of this was the coaching staffs’ failure to devise a strategy to incorporate a suspect bench and untested rookies into the rotation while masking their deficiencies and providing much needed rest to the starters.

    It can be debated eternally whether the bench just wasn’t very good or Nellie just didn’t trust them; it looked like a combination of both. A great coach takes on that challenge and changes the paradigm. Nellie and his staff didn’t. I give them credit for wringing 48 wins from a very flawed team in a highly competitive year but at best I give him and his mates a C. No playoffs, no bench/rookie development, the Webber fiasco, the Baron benching, too many loses to cupcakes, and no #@%*! fracking defense. Nellie has had great years but this wasn’t one of them.

  • manhattanproj

    it’s hard to fault a coach when he won 48 games. put him in the east and we wouldnt even have this post, as we’ll be talking about the playoffs.

    but i do agree that nellie mis-used the bench. it’s hard to believe that you can’t squeeze 15-20mpg out of keleena, and 10-15mpg out of wright, marco, and barnes. nellie could definitely have bought more rest time for davis and jackson.

    on the same token, davis and jackson should also have taken better care of their body. yes they played alot of minutes, but to fade like they did at the end is inexcusable. boxing match in vegas, birthday party, film premier, unnecessary activities that took a toll in addition to the minutes.

  • Wilson

    It would be possible for a player to handle 40 minutes a night for 82 games in some offensive systems – but not in Nellieball. With the ebbs and flows of games, playing backups in the second quarters would be unlikely to cost the team any wins overall, because any decreased production by the bench would be well offset by the increased production by the starters at the ends of games. And the side benefits would have been huge: the starters would have had much more in their tanks at season end, and if a little bit lucky, one or more of Belinelli, Wright, or POB might have become a player as the playoffs approached.

  • MountainJim

    I’m not so sure you’d have had increased production at the ends of games, as the starters who played big minutes had a tendency to coast. I guess that’s an argument that there might not have been decreased second quarter production if they subbed out, but the odd thing was the Warriors’ worst quarters for a good part of the season tended to be the first and third, especially at home.

    I’m just hoping the young bench guys who didn’t see minutes this year are ready next year and that this team goes closer to 9 deep than 7 deep on a regular basis.

    I’m not sure how much to blame Nellie though. Seems like the Warriors were trying to build for the future and win now all at once, which is a tough spot for the coach. Not his best year, by any means, but I keep wondering who else on earth could have coaxed 48 wins out of this bunch.

  • lobo

    I thought he did a fine job myself however I also knew that playing the minutes that he did with the usual suspects had to catch up with them…regardless of a day off here and there. Lest not forget not having Jackson for the first six games or whatever it was didn’t help us getting into the playoffs. Obviously if we split those games we are in playoffs.

  • Ewok

    Nellie is a good coach.

    He is the guy I want on difficult situations. He likes to gamble with his philosophy and he wins not only the game but the wisdom and repect of his players.


    In my opinion, He is not a coach who gambles with his trust and it is so hard to gain his trust. To gain PT, You have to be his favorite or you have to get his attention by asking for a trade to get his notice..

    As a result, the team becomes competitive, but without a solid bench foundation, it is inevitable that we fall short of the playoffs.

    Here’s my point, When Nellie came over to the team, I vividly remember how he expressed his admiration for Patrick O Briant. He liked what he saw in him, He saw lots of potential in the kid expressing and hoping that he becomes a ‘star’ in his lifetime. The same thing could be said about Bellineli. His assesment of Marco was so sensational it got the fan community on a high.

    Later on, he would backtrack from his statements then conclude the two arent ready yet. They lurked in the bench.

    I have a problem with that.

    If these players have shown something you like, Then atleast they have raw talent, then develop them by all means! If they aren’t matured in confident enough just yet, then Make them believe in themselves by believing in them.

    Don’t pound them on the bench, give them a good five to seven minutes as role players. With 82 games, they will surely develop something in their game.

    But Nellie is not that trusting.

    On the matter of trust, He will not gamble like a poker player and therefore the consequence is a long term one.

    According to rumors, Team Captain Baron Davis was benched in the Phoenix game because of his Birthday Party celebrations which didnt give him a sound game in Phoenix… Another rumor report says that Diddy said something in the media what he honestly obeserved about how tired and unresponsive the players are. Rumors reports (hope Im wrong) this action led to his benching on that crucial game with the Suns with a succeeding exclamation point of a statement, “I gave Baron a much needed rest!” Which I think is wrong, egoistical and immature. I don’t know which rumor is true but Ironically, rumors have it that Mullin himself made a similar comment in the media beforehand.

    Nellie likes to ride you like a horse if you have his trust though and you have to be lucky at that.

    He rode Run TMC with millions of minutes and it worked in the short term, but in the long term, Mullin and Hardaway became injury prone and Richmond who also has his injuries, got traded. We had Mario Ellie at that time who rode the bench as well, but would later became “Super Mario” in Houston and win a championship. There goes the core of the team.

    What he was mainly responsible for creating (Run TMC), He was also mainly responsible for its demise.

    Webber, Spree and Owens were very talented players but they were always seen through the magnifying glass through a microscope.

    If The Micro approach was too much for them, How much more for it to take for the likes of POB, Bellineli, Perovic, Pietrus and Wright, most of them have to go Dleague after a few bad games.

    I read somewhere Mark Cuban’s comment on Nellie which goes something like ( I can’t remember the exact words) “as a regular season coach he is good, but as a coach that reaches the playoffs and thereafter, He is no longer a winning coach.”

    Somehow I would like to believe that because his style of play from game 1 to the last game, rarely varies. If he wants it fast, I dont have a problem with that but at least change your rotations.

    The game in the playoffs changes its complexion. What you did in the regular series will not always work in the playoffs.

    Nellie made a statement that this team is not deep. Im no coach and I respect that assesment. But if he was aware of this, especially after giving up JRich for nothing in return, Why didn’t he made the proper accomodations by giving his bench minimal minutes..

    With no inside isolation plays, no inside post game which explains his lack of power forward as he relies more on speed than power, and probably more.. It’s not that hard to anticipate what Nellie will do.

    Therefore, reaching the playoffs without a variety of gamestyle will surely stagnate.

    Do I want him to be a coach for the Warriors? Yes! Because he is really good in what he does but He also, has to grow with the team.

    He has to provide more dynamics to bring the team to the championship. Maintain the fast speed of the game, sure, but get everyone involved, especially the bench.

    The Bench as unit has to have a goal.

    He has to believe in them by challenging and motivating them to surprise him and he has to do it NOW not next season when his pay after negotiations is higher.

  • commish

    Rather than make two replies, I’ll comment on the coaching and management blog entries here. First, dude, are you serious? An A- for Mully and Co? Wow, clearly they did not pay attention to what Nellie was doing with the team. By that I mean by over playing his two then three faves while demeaning the other players with his sarcastic wit and humor. In retrospect, I think Nelson demoralized many of his bench players while completely alienating at least one (POB) if not more (maybe Kosta). My opinion is completely subjective, but the last two weeks of the season showed us a group of burned out starters and bench players with no desire and or energy to win. That has to be on the coach and on Mully for not making any trades beore the trade deadline to stregthen the team (and obviously the bench) for the playoff run. You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist or genuis GM (which no one has suggested would describe Mully) to see we needed help. I totally agree with other posters when I say it is much better we didn’t make the playoffs for obvious reasons: a higher draft pick, a clearer picture (as if we didn’t already have that) of our deficits (and strenghts). I think the highest grade one could give the coaching staff (really Nelly) and Mully and Co is a B- and that is being generous. Forget the number of wins because that is an illusion in the sense we had no significant injuries to Baron in particular and Monta and Jax all season. Also, I haven’t done the numbers, but I wonder what our record is against the West vs the East. Wouldn’t that be a better indicator of our status in the West? Marcus, how could you give Mulson and Co anything higher than a C at best? I wonder what grades Geoff would give after writing “The End” which was openly critical of at least Nelson. Come on Geoff, give it up…..

  • mj


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