Thursday , Aug , 31 , 2006 Oly Sandor

Eccentric Nelson will temporarily distract Warrior fans

Don Nelson is returning to coach the Golden State Warriors. No, this isn’t Groundhog Day. And, no, this isn’t some cruel flashback to the early 1990’s-an era when you weighed less, had more hair, and listened to Seattle rock bands.

Eccentric Nelson will temporarily distract Warrior fans

Chris Mullin, Golden State’s Executive Vice-President, announced that the team will buy out the last two seasons on Coach Mike Montgomery’s contract and bring back Don Nelson, who coached the team from 1988-1994.

Nelson was Mullin’s old coach, when the front office executive played for the Warriors.  Of course, Mullin knows that his former coach can resemble a mad scientist-Nelson’s schemes are part genius and part crazy.

Nelson, the genius coach, gives his players the opportunity to succeed. His wide-open, offensive system helped Tim Hardaway, Chris Mullin, and Mitch Richmond gain basketball fame as RUN TMC-minus the shades, top hats, and Adidas apparel.

And what other coach would dream of turning seven-foot, seven-inch Manute Bol into a legitimate three-point threat?

On the other hand, Nelson, the crazy coach, overemphasizes small ball, forgetting that defense wins NBA Titles. It’s no coincidence that Dallas immediately became contenders after promoting Avery Johnson.

This brings us to Nelson’s new team-the 2006 edition of the Golden State Warriors. They’re an inconsistent enigma. One game, they look like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction-brilliant. And the very next game, they look like Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane-terrible.

            In short, the Warrior players are as unpredictable as their new coach.

Why would an undisciplined basketball team hire an undisciplined coach? Once you get past their past (pun intended), the current Warriors and Nelson are an extremely odd match.

Let’s start with the obvious-how will Nelson handle Baron Davis? The talented 1-guard needs a sideline boss to hold him accountable when he decides to turn Oakland Arena into his own version of Rucker Park-and Nelson isn’t that type of coach.

On the rare occasion when Nelson has disciplined players, his frustration has usually been building over time and this leads to confrontation. Warrior fans remember the Chris Webber blowup and Maverick fans remember Antoine Walker sulking for extended periods during his short stint in Dallas.     

Nelson’s other great challenge is to turn Golden State’s young core of Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy, and Troy Murphy into winners. This won’t be easy. These three are like characters from The Wizard of Oz-they are all missing an intangible quality.

Richardson can score, but he needs leadership skills.
Dunleavy is smart, but he needs confidence.
Murphy has talent, but he needs to stay healthy.

The veteran coach has the daunting task of becoming Dorothy and helping these young players find what’s missing from their game.

Bottom line, the Warriors need a stabilizing influence. Last season, there were reports that Montgomery had lost control of the players. Can Nelson restore law, order, and justice in Golden State? His track record suggests otherwise. In 1996, New York fired Nelson after just half a season because his relaxed approach alienated veteran players.

Ironically, Mullin fired the perfect stabilizing influence two seasons ago and Eric Musselman now coaches in Sacramento. And this raises an interesting point. Just a few years ago, the Warriors were a promising bunch. Then Mullin gets hired and everything changes. Things get quite confusing-including this decision to bring back the relic, Don Nelson.

Right now, Golden State’s entire organization seems lost. They’re over the salary cap. There’s little direction. Then again, maybe the eccentric Nelson is the perfect hire for Golden State. His idiosyncrasies will keep the masses distracted and entertained, when they should be thinking about who created this mess.

Oly Sandor is an NBA analyst and free lance journalist based out of Vancouver, Canada. His unique takes have been featured in the most prominent basketball websites, magazines, and radio stations. Contact Oly at [email protected] and check out more of his work at