When I heard that Don Nelson broke Lenny Wilkens all-time record of 1,332 NBA wins, I was a little upset because I am a huge fan of his. He coached my favorite team, the Atlanta Hawks, from ’93-’00 and took them to the playoffs six out of the seven years he coached here. Then I heard that Don Nelson broke Wilkens’ all-time record for NBA regular-season wins, not of all-time. He needs just five more playoff wins to eclipse Wilkens for the most wins of all-time so that makes me feel a little better. The Warriors do not have a chance to win a playoff game this year because they won’t be playing in the playoffs. Just because a coach wins a lot of games, in my opinion, doesn’t always mean they’re a great coach. For example, Nelson has been coaching for thirty-four years and he has never won a conference title and has never reached the NBA Finals. I am not saying that he is a bad coach. He is a good coach that has coached for a long time that has won consistently at each stop along the way. I just don’t think his name belongs amongst the greatest when mentioning NBA coaches.
Don Nelson joined KHTK in Sacramento to talk about when he broke the all-time wins record and what the scene was like at the end of the game, one team that he loved to coach and whether he has a team that he would like to coach again, and whether Stephen Curry has surpassed his expectations.
When he broke the all-time wins record and what the scene was like at the end of the game:
“I know. That is why we coach I think for moments like that. Normally that happens in a championship game when you win a title or something like that. I have done that as a player but never had the opportunity as a coach. That is probably as close as we would get.”
On his philosophy as a coach:
“You know that is pretty much it. You have got to play the hand that you are dealt. If you just have players that don’t have abilities or desires to play defense, you have got to figure out a way to win whereever you are so that is kind of where we have been. We are not a terrible defensive team. We are just not as good as most. Usually if you are going to anchor your team on defense you have got to have some sort of presence inside, some sort of a shot blocker or a presence of size inside. You know I have been having small, small teams for a long time.”
On him going to places with bad teams and changing them into a good team:
“Yeah I think if you want my M.O., it is probably going to be in situations where I have taken over bad teams and made pretty good ones out of them and then found a way to screw that up when they finally get good, now I have got another bad team.”
On one team that he loved to coach and whether he has a team that he would like to coach again:
“Well my best teams were in Milwaukee where we really had a chance to win a title there, I thought that we were good enough. But we had the Boston Celtics and they won about three or four titles there. Then Philadelphia had the full, full, full team that was a great team. One year we beat the Celtics and then the Sixers had beaten us. The next year, the Sixers and the Celtics beat us so we never really got as far as we would have hoped. Those are the best teams that I have ever coached.”
Whether he feels that Stephen Curry and Tyreke Evans being great players that will be around for a long time:
“Both of them have ‘star’ written all over them and I think what we need in the Bay area is a player that will attract other players that want to come and play with your best player and I think Stephen is going to do that. I think over the next twelve or fifteen years or however long he plays, guys are going to want to come to the Bay Area now to want to play with Steph Curry because he is a marvelous person and a really fine, young player that passes the ball and does all the right basketball things that you would want all of your players to do and they want to attract really good other players. They want to play with guys like that.”
Whether Stephen Curry has surpassed his expectations:
“Actually, defensively he has really done a good job. Our last game he had eight steals. He has almost a quadruple-double. If the game would have gone a little bit more he probably would have set that kind of record. The guy is incredible defensively. He has super hands and he is just a ballsy guy that goes in there after steals and digs around and he rebounds his position. He does about everything that you would want a young player to do.”