On a nearly perfect day weather-wise in downtown Oakland on Saturday, Warriors coach Don Nelson moved his post-practice chat with the media outside to the balcony of the Warriors practice facility. There he fired up a cigar and spilled the beans about his contract extension, his bosses and his new philosophy. Here is the blow-by-blow.
A report from ESPN.com said you’re close to an extension agreement. Can you confirm that?
Yes. I can confirm that.
How many more years are we talking about?
In the past you said you would take it year-by-year. Why commit to three years?
It wasn’t my idea. It was fine with me to weigh it year-to-year. But they came to me and wanted me to commit to three years and, uh, I’m pretty excited about it. It’s quite an honor really to be wanted. At my age, you’re lucky if anybody wants ya. Hopefully your wife.
When you say three seasons, do you mean …
This one and an additional two years.
At about the same salary?
Pretty close. It’s a little more complicated. It’s a bunch of deferred in it. Actually it’s less per year, but some deferred out and calculated some interest on the deferred. It’s pretty close. A little raise maybe.
Does (the extension) at all address the possibility of you becoming general manager?
Is there any chance you could become the general manager?
No. Don’t want to be.
Is there a chance you would have increased personnel say?
Coach and coach only?
That’s right. I’m not interested in general manager or coach and general manager or anything else. I’ll support Mully the whole way. I hope he gets his deal done as well. I love working with Mully. I’m a coach. Period.
This will help me in my retirement – the deferred kick-in after the three years – so then I’ll have some retirement income coming in. That’s very nice for me at my age.
Since you’ve been back, it’s been a partnership with you and Mullin. Can you imagine …
Well, I appreciate Chris Mullin and chris cohan and Bobby offering me this extension. It’s very nice of them, they want me around to see us through this year and see what happens, building, and whatever it is that it’s going to take. It’s nice to know that they want me around to be part of that.
When did the talks begin?
It happened pretty fast. I don’t think there was a negotiation or anything.
Was it before you went to China?
Yes. I think they did it when (Rowell and Nellie’s attorney John O’Connor) were in New York (for the NBA meetings). John just happened to be there and they worked it out there.
Is it at all uncomfortable for you to know that Mullin might not be the general manager after this season?
Well, I don’t know that. I’m hoping that all gets worked out. But I don’t know that, that he’s not.
It could be a general manager who you don’t know or are not very comfortable with …
I’m very comfortable with Mully.
But if Mullin is out of the equation …
I’ve gotta hope it will get worked out.
Will you be back if Mullin is not?
I signed a contract. Yes.
Though you have an extension, could you still take the year-to-year approach?
I can retire. They don’t want me to retire. The contract does have a call-back provision. If I do not finish the contract, I give a million of the contract back.
Whenever that is?
Whenever that is, in the three years. I don’t really know all the details. Maybe it’s in the extension. Anyway, there’s a call-back provision in the extension. I haven’t read it. I haven’t signed it, so I don’t know.
Does it change your approach to the season at all?
No, I think it doesn’t. I think I was strong enough to be on a one-year deal and not worry too much about not doing the right thing or trying to win more games than I should, put too much pressure on me or the team. I was going to do the same job no matter what. I was going to do the right thing and work my butt off coaching this team. There’s more development this year with our younger guys. It just puts me in the broader picture. It’s not me doing it for somebody else now, developmental kind of stuff. Hopefully I’ll be on the dividend side of some of that.
You’re talking about playing younger guys?
Yes. Or developing younger guys. It doesn’t necessarily mean playing them. I’ll play them if they’re ready. Don’t want to embarrass them.
Is there tension between Mullin and Rowell?
I don’t know that. Never talked to Mullin about whether there is or isn’t. They’re both adults. They’ll work it out. All I’m saying is that I’ve enjoyed working with Mully. I expect to work longer with him. That’s the reason I’m here. I just assume all of that is going to get worked out.
So you haven’t felt any of the tension between them?
I don’t really deal with upstairs too much. If I go to my office five times a year, it’s probably a lot. I don’t even go up there. I just stay down in the locker room. I do have a nice office up there. But it’s dusty.
Will you lobby for them to keep Mullin?
I’ll tell them my opinion, yes, like I always do.
Assuming there is a rift between them, do you want to serve as peacemaker?
I don’t want to get involved in all that because that’s all speculation stuff. I’m going to give my opinion when it’s asked.
Was there a conversation about an extension with Mullin?
Yeah. Mullin and I talked about it.
Did he offer you the extension?
Yeah. He didn’t discourage me from signing it. He thought it was a good deal for me and if I liked it I should sign it.
Willing to say this is your last contract?
Every time I say that, I end up staying longer. So I’m not saying that. I don’t know. It could end anytime. I just don’t know. I don’t think retirement is all that it’s made up to be. When I’ve had periods of time off, you start missing going to work and having obligations. It’s not all what it’s caught up to be. So my philosophy has changed a little bit. I’ve lost some dear, dear friends over the last year. Just lost another one last night.
A guy in Milwaukee. My wife and I met at his restaurant actually. He was hit by a car and died this morning at 8:30. And the philosophy’s changed a little bit. Now I think I better bop ‘til I drop. I think it was a good philosophy. That’s the one my friends have had who have passed on. Some of those guys have been retired and have told me, ‘Hey, it’s not all that it’s made up to be, you know.’
You’ve been an executive before. Why are you so definite about ruling it out here?
I can’t do it. I can’t do it anymore. There’s no way I could carry the load of anything other than … I mean I’ve got enough trouble just coaching the team right now, not having other responsibilities that’s for sure. It won’t happen. It didn’t happen. Not interested. I’ve got my hands full. Period. So I hope that puts out all the fires. Or whatever it is you’re burning over there.
But the team doesn’t have anyone else?
That’s not true. Mully’s right there
Maybe not after July 1 …
Well, that’s a year away. A lot of water would be going under the dam, hopefully, by that time.