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Winderman: Don Nelson deserves Hall call

Apr 5, 2010, 12:43 PM EDT

NBA_nelson_250.jpgThe only way the snub could have been more cutting is if the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection committee came out Monday and announced why it did not select those snubbed from this year’s class.

As it is, basketball’s Hall has the most anonymous selection process of any of the major sports.

But don’t, for a second, think there isn’t a degree of politics involved.

The latter stages of Don Nelson’s career hardly have featured his best work. Disinterested is among the best of definitions. He has feuded with owners. He has humiliated veterans and rookies alike. At times, it seemingly only has been about the money.

But he also is now tied for the all-time lead in NBA coaching victories.

And isn’t victory the ultimate measure of the entire process?

Each of the other six winningest NBA coaches are in the Hall except Nellie, with Jerry Sloan making it last year.

Bill Fitch, seventh on the list, one spot ahead of Red Auerbach, isn’t, but that nasty .460 winning percentage does get in the way.

Certainly Nellie could have handled the politics far better. It never seems to end well, and it probably won’t this time, either, with the Warriors on the verge of an ownership shakeup.

But few have innovated to the degree of Nellie, be it the utilization of point forwards to the deployment of zone defenses long before the NBA came around to his thinking.

Yes, there was Manute Bol shooting 3-pointers. And, yes, there was the decision to minimize Patrick Ewing during the brief run in New York.

But if winning games doesn’t mean everything, then what does the Hall stand for?

And if longevity doesn’t factor heavily into the equation, then why the insistence on coaches having spent 25 years on the bench to be considered while still actively employed?

All we know is this: Don Nelson has coached more than twice as many NBA victories than Chucky Daly and nearly twice as many as Red Holzman, and they both are enshrined in Springfield.

Nellie’s resume won’t improve from here.

We likely are in the final days of seeing him on the sidelines.

Then, soon, it’ll be off, for good, to Hawaii, where he could wind up out of sight, out of mind.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

  1. Randall - Apr 5, 2010 at 6:47 PM

    He’s a step above mediocre as a coach, that’s why he’s been able to hang around forever and get all those wins. Hardly HoF material.

  2. Larry - Apr 5, 2010 at 10:00 PM

    He was a better coach at one time. The alcohol has got the better of him the last decade at least. But when you combine his play on Celtic championship teams and his coaching wins he has to get in.

  3. kimmer - Apr 6, 2010 at 8:39 AM

    Anyone who goes against the grain of what a coach should be, and still wins, has my vote. The world needs characters, and it sounds like Nellie is that. Besides, what will it hurt to “let” him in? And if a bunch of nobodies who have never played or coached (he has done both) don’t let him in, WHO CARES? Its politics, man. Its politics. Green olives in a jar, black olives in a can. Its all politics.

  4. Stan - Apr 7, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Any day now, Don Nelson will be the winningest coach in NBA history. Does that make him great? It depends on how you look at it. His winning percentage is below 557. His playoff winning percentage is 452. Innovative? Yes! Dominant? No!
    He wins the longevity race, that’s for sure. He will be the winningest coach only because he has done the job for a lot of years, not because of his teams dominance over opponents.
    There are many coaches with much higher winning percentages. Don Nelson is not in the same league as Jackson (the only coach with a winning percentage over 700, and Riley, Auerbach, Popovich, Aldeman, K.C. Jones, Billy Cunningham, and other members of the “600 club.”

  5. harryadkison - Apr 13, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    Heeeeeere’s Donny! Yes, big old Don Nelson is the greatest coach the NBA has ever known. I don’t care if you don’t agree with me, I know I am right. Just look at the stats. They speak for themselves. Yes, Don Nelson surpassed Lenny Wilkens on the career list with win No. 1,333 in the Golden State Warriors’ 116-107 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. I think the best sports blogs covering this historic achievement were listed on the online index. Goold old Donny! I hope he keeps going on coaching and winning more NBA titles.

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