Don Nelson sits in Maui, collecting the $6 million he is owed, and waiting for a phone call from Warriors incoming owner Joe Lacob.
And more and more, it seems like that call may say, “Hey, come on back and coach the team a little longer.” That’s what the San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami is hearing.
The term I’ve heard: Lacob could give most of the significant Warriors employees a “test-drive” of some undetermined length, possibly at least through the end of 2010 and maybe into the 2011 off-season…
I’m not saying Lacob definitely is going to lay back on a GM/front-office re-structuring. I’m just saying that it’s possible, given Lacob’s current view of the goings-on at this late off-season juncture.
What appears to be the case is the long-standing alliance between Nelson and general manager Larry Riley will not be the major power structure anymore. Their fates will be decided separately.
If Lacob is going to be hands-on as it appears in player/personnel decisions, Riley may keep his job by being the guy who teams contact, who will listen to the offers, who can do the dirty work then consult with Lacob on a course of action. Somebody is going to have to fill that role, to bring a basketball background perspective to the GM role. (Warriors fans, pray that somebody does.) Riley may well get the chance to prove he can be that guy.
Nobody thinks Nelson is the long-term answer at coach. But there are two questions here. First, as Lacob will not get control of the team until just before or already into training camp, can he get somebody as coach at that point of the quality he wants. Second, is it worth buying out Nelson at $6 million plus shelling out several million more for a new coach to figure that out?
Nelson comes with much more baggage. The fan base can’t stand him. The players think he jerks them around. Keeping Nelson on board does not exactly help moral or show that it is time for a new direction. But unless Lacob has someone like Dwane Casey in his back pocket, making the last-minute change will be hard (and Dallas might not want to let an assistant coach walk on the eve of the season, there are a lot of complications).
So in Golden State, it may be meet the new boss, same as the old boss. At least for a while.