Winning 1,333 games as an NBA coach? That’s absolutely amazing, and a feat worthy of recognizing. Breaking the record during a 24-win season that represents one of your low points as a coach? That’s not as great.
Don Nelson’s long, awkward stumble towards history finally came to a close on Wednesday night as the Warriors beat the Timberwolves to place Nelson atop the all-time coaching wins list. Fittingly, D-League call-up Anthony Tolliver led the way for the Warriors, scoring a career-high 34 points.
Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Warriors did have a celebration for Nelson after the game, although it wasn’t a very big one:
The on-court huddle included hugs for each member of the Warriors’ staff and roster and a dousing from a cup of water. The celebration, however, seemed forced in comparison with the emotion exhibited when Nelson tied the record with a one-point win at Toronto on Sunday.
The best reactions Wednesday came behind closed doors, only the Warriors forgot to shut the locker-room door. They shook up cans of Mountain Dew and Sierra Mist and drenched the coach when he arrived from a courtside interview.
“We didn’t have any champagne, so we improvised,” said forward Anthony Tolliver, who scored a career-high 34 points. “He hasn’t had a championship yet, so we wanted to make this as special as possible. We thought he might be mad, but he is on cloud nine right now.”
Nelson is a three-time coach of the year winner, and has coached a team to 60 or more wins in a season three times. As recently as 2007, Nelson was the toast of the coaching world when he beat the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs with a slew of unconventional tactics. Over the past two seasons, Nellie has come under fire. The Warriors have struggled mightily, and Nelson’s bizarre rotations and strategies don’t seem to have helped much. Amidst the celebrating, some feel that Nelson’s days in Golden State may be numbered.
To his credit, Nellie has been very humble whenever he’s been asked questions about the record. Nelson deserves all the praise in the world for accumulating all those wins over more than three decades as a head coach in the NBA. It’s unfortunate that Nelson ended up breaking the record under the current circumstances, but we shouldn’t lose sight of all the accomplishments this record represents.