Don Nelson is a revolutionary coach. Whatever you think of how it ended, the man was a game changer. He helped make it okay for Dirk Nowitzki to be a power forward on the wing. You don’t become the all-time winningest coach in NBA history on a fluke. He had a career — from playing on legendary Celtics teams to being a three-time coach of the year — that is legendary.
But it was time for a change in the Bay Area. Both on the court and to show Warriors fans — who had turned on Nelson — that it was a new era.
The writing had been on the wall all summer, ever since Joe Lacob and Peter Guber won the bidding to buy the Warriors. That sale still isn’t official — the owners will vote on it next month — but they already have started to change the direction of the franchise. In a very un-Nellie like way.
Lacob was a minority owner with the Celtics and wants to build a team more in that mold — one that can defend, one that can be physical. Nelson likes shooters and to run. And not much else.
Look at the players the Warriors went out and got at the end of this summer: Louis Amundson, Dorell Wright, Rodney Carney, and Jeremy Lin. Nelson would not have picked up one of those. It was clear he was not making the decisions anymore.
The only question left was timing. And if Lacob would really pay the $6 million to Nelson he is owed this year to just go away.
The answer is yes. Look at what Lacob told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:
“I spoke with him several times,” Lacob said via e-mail Thursday evening about the process of moving Nelson aside for Keith Smart. “I respect Don a lot.
“We just need to go in a different direction at this time.”
It wasn’t a surprise to anyone. The writing had been on the wall for months.