Since we're finally getting the Chardonnay set to admit that the end is nigh for Don Nelson the Coach and seeing the first weak defenses of his basketball brain in the front office as the "new" owners try whatever they can to avoid admitting they love the current infrastructure completely and/or are willing to tell Larry Riley to piss off as they take credit for all of these spectacular moves this summer, you know, once they "officially" "own" the "team," (whew) ...
here's a fun exercise that plant shill wannabe fan media would do well to review.
Don Nelson took over as head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks from the great Larry Costello (first head coach in Bucks history and the only one to ever win Milwaukee a championship) partway into the 1976-77 season. Costello coached Kareem (and made him Kareem! - he changed his name the day after winning the title) and Oscar together after Oscar came over from the Cincinatti Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) to finish his career in Milwaukee. As always, there's an ugly backstory to the Nelson-Costello ouster but you're all more than familiar with the Don Nelson slash and burn, all for me business model so we'll skip that parenthetical aside here. But it's worth recalling that Kareem left Milwaukee under trade demands after Oscar retired and about the same time Don Nelson would arrive in the front office before ousting Costello at the PERFECT moment of vulnerability as the stars fled Milwaukee and the mood was grim.
Costello's All Stars in the 1976 game had been Brian Winters and Bob Dandridge. Incidentally, the Warriors had some All Stars that year, too, and that year should of course spark fond memories in any remaining Warriors fans over the age of 35. Rick Barry, Lamaal Wilkes, and Phil Smith all made the team and that was, of course, the one and only year the California Warriors franchise has ever won a championship. Perhaps that's where the "3 All Stars or no championship" lament came from.
This Milwaukee run was unquestionably Nelson's finest career period. He took teams deeper into the playoffs than he ever would after, he won two of his three career Coach of the Year awards (last one was in 1991-92 for the Warriors... 20 years ago), and worked with some quality all around players despite already showing clear signs that he was incapable of maintaining roster and chemical consistency. He's never come close to matching the relative calm of those years, calm that, though largely mythological due to the wheeling and dealing and turnover surrounding a few key player retentions, obviously led to his highest achievements as a coach.
These days, Nelson's remarkable fame as a personality and a generally interesting tactical weirdo is by far the larger story on his total career. In Milwaukee, he really coached and he really won. He was content to work hard and strive to compete day in, day out. But later, the money and the head games took center stage and Nellie Ball, the total, cultural legacy of Don Nelson, now dominates and overpowers the actual basketball in a daunting Mythology of the man's greatness.
Nelson's Bucks teams were the closest he ever got to taking the next step from idiosyncratic Personality cult and into the upper class of legitimately successful NBA tacticians and championship-caliber coaches. His teams lost before the Conference Finals almost every time. The three times he made the Conference Finals in Milwaukee remain his lasting legacy, though he was beaten by legitimate contenders playing serious playoff basketball with transcendent talent like Dr. J or Larry Bird, each and every time. Twenty years later, one can say with certainty that he never put his massive ego and interpersonal destructiveness aside long enough to be a true winner in the postseason. But at least in Milwaukee, he won and competed without the burden of Nellie Ball culture hanging over his head constantly and, in the process, he earned the lion's share of the league and fan credit he has long since used up and burnt the recipts on. Except in Joe Lacob and Peter Goober's little pea-brained Chris Cohan-Part II minds, apparently.
Here's a list of players who made an All Star game while actually playing for Don Nelson in the season they made the team:
Milwaukee Bucks (1977-1987)
1977 - none
1978 - Brian Winters (his second and final appearance in the AS game)
1979 - Marques Johnson
1980 - Marques Johnson
1981 - Marques Johnson
1982 - Sidney Moncrief
1983 - Moncrief & Johnson
1984 - Moncrief
1985 - Moncrief & Terry Cummings (traded for)
1986 - Moncrief
1987 - none
Scott Skiles was never an All Star for Milwaukee.
Terry Cummings made the All Star team as a Buck again in 1989.
Pretty nice run. Sidney Moncrief is arguably the most successful player to have ever played for Nelson. To have ACTUALLY played for Don Nelson over the most significant stretch of his career. Chris Mullin is really the only other candidate for that title. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Nelson sent both men off into the wild blue yonder due to a variety of personal and professional problems in the last few years here in Golden State. Or blame Robert Rowell if you prefer. Either way, Lacob-Goober's brain trust looks absolutely sterling moving forward, doesn't it? Those two incompetent chemists and Lacob's son, the Fantasy League Champion Kirk Lacob. Moving on.
1987-88 - Took a Vacation (Did Not Coach - DNC)
Golden State Warriors (1988-1995)
1989 - Chris Mullin
1990 - Chris Mullin
1991 - Mullin & Tim Hardaway
1992 - Mullin & Hardaway
1993 - Mullin & Hardaway
1994 - Latrell Sprewell
1995 - Sprewell (Game MVP: Mitch Richmond, Sacramento Kings. Hmmm.)
Mitch Richmond went on to greatness as a Sacramento King after the laughable Nellie Ball trade for sure thing Point Forward Billy Owens. Nelson's keen eye for legitimate NBA talent and leadership convinced him that Richmond was expendable and Owens was the next Magic Johnson. Until he changed his mind or Owens had an attitude problem or a drug addiction or a sex life or something he could be blamed for. Whatever. Effectively, Nelson cashed in the 2 years of Run TMC mystique to draft Owens and Richmond went on to be a great player on a perennial playoff team up Highway 80.
And then it all fell apart in Oakland, before Chris Webber ever made an All Star game.
Before Chris Gatling made the All Star game as a Dallas Maverick in 1997.... hold on ....
1996-7 Took a Vacation (DNC)
Oh, I guess there was that brief time in New York when Nellie proved, convincingly, he didn't have what it takes for the real big time. He needs just enough lesser market cover for his bluffer's bullshit to eke out his special brand of high volume mediocrity or it can't take the brief appearance of quality over a concentrated, cash-in-able period of observation.
New York Knicks (1995-1996)
1996 - Patrick Ewing. He and Nelson were real pals.
Dallas Mavericks (1997-2005)
1998 - none
1999 - none
2000 - Michael Finley
2001 - Michael Finley
2002 - Steve Nash & Dirk Nowitzki
2003 - Nash & Nowitzki
2004 - Just Dirk. Where'd Nash go?
2005 - Nowitzki
Josh Howard never made the All Star game while Nelson coached him.
Nellie's own son, the real brains of the Dallas executive operation, Donnie Nelson, continues to locate and draft incredible international talent like Dirk Nowitzki and Rodrigue Beaubois (and he drafted Steve Nash while working for Phoenix, then brought him to Dallas) in spite of his father's basic insanity/general drunkenness. I'd be curious to hear someone blame the Nash departure on Donnie, the guy who loved him and did everything in his power to get him on TWO of his teams and, the first time, despite having two elite point guards (Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson) already clogging the rotation in front of him! Once upon a time, Chris Mullin ran a much smaller game of deep scouting success and found Andris Biedrins in Latvia, Monta Ellis in a Mississippi high school.
Michael Finley would go on to win championships with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio after Mark Cuban exercised the one time amnesty provision and waived Finley before a new CBA took full effect.
What will the league really remember from Nellie's Dallas tenure?
He broke up a championship caliber duo of Hall of Famers and, per the Nelson custom, got himself wrapped up in another epic after-the-fact finger-pointing post mortem with Mark Cuban that exactly mirrors his breakup with Chris Cohan and the Golden State after the Webber fiasco he created. Then, he eviscerated his own system and his own hand-picked successor, Avery Johson, with a rag tag bunch of streaky scorers after a miracle collapse by the Clippers and an empty winning streak against patsies by the 2006-07 Warriors We Believe! team. Now that short term, HEAVILY leveraged slogan is also dead. He's got a $6 million contract as we speak, even still, and manipulated the offseason two years running after convincing the team to trade the single most important player from an incredible team effort for the magical end of the season run in 2007, Jason Richardson, for Brandan Wright practically as soon as the door on the Utah series closed. He spent that and every offseason since looking to get paid or stay paid instead of looking to build upon that mostly empty "success" and stay relevant. The roster is now only a Monta Ellis/Andris Biedrins trade away from total annihilation. And of course, not a single All Star in Golden State since 1994 and the best bet looks like the severely overhyped pretty boy shooter-not-point-guard, Stephen Curry. Robert Rowell had an awkward Fist Bump for Larry Riley the moment that marketing gimmick fell in his lap.
More saccharin for the Chardonnay set.
Nellie Ball is not just about the on court work. He has consistently and abusively destroyed franchises at every stop as his ego and thirst for money and power before every other thing that matters to the teams that really win- and really last- takes over and eats everything in sight. When he leaves town, the teams in his wake are a crumbling shambles. Milwaukee and Golden State both suffered as the most pathetic franchises in the league after Nelson demolished them. He built nothing that would or could last. Every decision was made to serve his hallmark qualities: expedience and opportunism. The added myth is, of course, that Nelson is a "gambler." That's no joke. He's frittered away years of basketball stability and legitimate team building at the Big Poker Pot in his mind. His addictive thirst for action, any action, overrides strong team foundation development time and time again. Robert Rowell apparently enjoys that circus atmosphere and believes he can control it. Larry Riley was so terrified of being connected to the Old Drunk Let-it-Ride codger, he started issuing public statements about how he's his own man and Don Nelson is not the GM of this team. Or, perhaps an even more frightening prospect as Nelson angles for some executive role with the team once his coaching tenure runs out: Riley may have been forced to cover up just how involved Nelson actually is. Don Nelson has NEVER taken a backseat on personnel decisions. And he has propped up favorites for positions of power at every prior stop. Riley is imminently fallible as a Nellie Ball product. Once the Twinkie filling leaves town for Maui, these cheap sponge cakes have a knack for collapsing.
That's Nellie Ball.
Nelson's strongest defenders today- a dying breed- have finally resorted to arguing for his position as a talent scout. No other role seems safe for this tired circus act, no other redeeming skill stands as a remotely controllable use of whatever game knowledge he can still be entrusted to recall and employ.
In short, Don Nelson is now fully acknowledged as a Has Been and a Must Go.
Only the desperate Hangers-On and, really, only his poker buddies (Lacob included) are interested in winding him up and watching him go over scotch and cigars for this one last ride. Lacob desperately overbid on the Cohan mess by $100 milion because he has everything riding on redeeming his friend Robert Rowell's vision and corporate infrastructure, which includes the Myth of Don Nelson's Greatness and the gimmicky shell game empty slogans and annually revised rosters with promises that this year, THIS year, is the year. We promise. Or maybe wait until next year. Again.
Nelson has to go. Immediately. Anyone desperately begging for an undeserved, sappy aw-shucks mosey off into some Hollywood backdrop sunset can take their gimmicks and talk point condescension and shove it where even Peter Guber's Hollywood sun don't shine.
Nellie, you've done enough.
The only graceful departure is full retirement and total departure from the entire franchise.
I'm no gambler but on this I'll bet: You don't have it in you.