HANG TIME WEST – He is 72 and living the good life on heaven-on-Earth Maui, so there has naturally been the question of why Don Nelson would want to give that up to get back into the coaching grind. Now comes the updated answer: he doesn’t.
The winningest coach in NBA history is permanently retired. He will not pursue future openings and will politely decline any overtures that do arrive.
That’s the word from Nellie himself, and the development is significant even if there appears to be little chance any team would register interest. Just last summer, after all, the Timberwolves considered Nelson for a job he very much wanted, before Minnesota hired Rick Adelman.
“No, I don’t,” Nelson said when asked if he wants to coach again. “There is life after basketball, which I didn’t know about when I was 70, but now I know that I’m 72. I’m having a great time on Maui. I’m doing a lot of development on my properties here and staying real busy. I actually get to play golf once in a while. I’m having the time of my life in my 70s.”
What changed in one year?
“I got a little eager,” he said. “You start thinking, ‘I’m getting older and it may be my last opportunity to get a job.’ All those things are going through my mind (when the Timberwolves showed interet). And I loved the team. I didn’t go after every job, but I went after the one job where I really thought I could do a good job. And when that didn’t happen, I pretty well dismissed ever coaching again. Then I had an opportunity to go to work for a friend of mine in Dallas. We’re starting a company in Detroit, Michigan, where we’re going to make made-in-USA items. We’re going to make watches, make bicycles, leather goods. A company we put together called Shinola.”
Nelson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sept. 7, last coached in 2009-10, when he passed Lenny Wilkens for No. 1 on the career coaching win list as part of a 26-56 campaign. A few months later, just before the start of training camp and the final season on his Warriors contract, Nelson was fired as part of a series of changes by a new ownership group.
“I think it was a good time for me to step away from it,” he said recently. “I really did enjoy my last year. We didn’t have a good team, but those guys, they gave me everything they had every single game. We had a bunch of non-drafted players. They gave me such a great year. We got the record. The guys wanted that so bad for me. It was just such a fun year I had my last year there. Then, when new ownership came in and I got to be 70 years old, I thought maybe it was just a perfect time to step away. I think it was. I really do.”