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.’|”