In which a young Don Nelson looked around the huddle, said the player who made the most money would take the last shot

A young Don Nelson coaching the Milwaukee Bucks. Yeah, its an old picture. Look at the short shorts worn by John Lucas.

Congrats to Don Nelson. The former NBA head coach of the Bucks, Knicks, Warriors, Mavericks and Warriors again was named a member of the 2012 Basketball Hall of Fame.

Now, what does Nelson have to do with 5ksandcabernets? Plenty, plenty. During the 2001-02 season, I was an NBA/Mavericks beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Nelson was the Mavericks coach and near the end of 2001, Nellie – that’s what everybody called him – was nearing career coaching victory No. 1,000.

To mark the inevitable occasion of the milestone, I called as many people as I could who knew Nellie, his son, former players, coaches, other NBA execs, and let them tell the story of a man whose NBA career spanned five decades if you include his career as a player with the Boston Celtics. My story appeared in the Star-Telegram the day after he won his 1,000th game, against the Atlanta Hawks. (Sorry for the weird display of the story. I had to pay to retrieve the archive and back then, the Star-Telegram didn’t have the fanciest of online graphics.)

Nellie was known as a wacky coach. He wore wacky ties. He invented Hack-a-Shaq and the concept of the point-forward. The funniest story I was told came from Ernie Grunfeld who was the coach of the Bucks at the time Nellie was approaching win 1,000 and a former player under  Nellie:

“We were in a close game once. We call a timeout, and in the huddle, he looks around, stands up and says, ‘Who makes the most money? Brian Winters? You do? You’re taking the last shot.’|”

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