Whether you like it or not, it’s seeming more likely that Don Nelson will return to coach the Warriors for the start of the 2010-11 season. Nelson, who has led the Warriors to 29 and 26 wins the past two seasons, is owed $6 million in the final year of his deal, which expires at the end of this season. That’s chip No. 1 in Nelson’s pocket, and possibly the most important piece to the puzzle.
Chip No. 2 — Nelson’s positive relationship with Stephen Curry — is also important, though positive player relationships should never be a primary deciding factor in the viability of a coach. Wins, which have been in short supply lately, should trump all. But Nelson’s price tag, combined with his close relationship with the star of the team and the player the front office reportedly wants to build this roster around, makes it’s easy to see how Joe Lacob could convince himself that its OK to give Nelson one last chance and see how this new roster gels under his tutelage.
The other factor favoring Nelson is whether Lacob feels confident that if he let Nelson go, he could get the coach he wants this close to the season. I have no idea what coaches even interest him at this point, though it’s been reported that he wants a young, energetic coach. Perhaps he could lure Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, but it’s no guarantee. The thinking might be to let Nelson hold the position until the coach Lacob wants is ready to step in. This might mean Nelson coaches out his contract and retires at the end of the season, after which Lacob can spend the offseason finding the coach he wants. It could be that Nelson begins the season, is let go at some point during the campaign, and assistant Keith Smart gets an abbreviated trial run as an interim head coach. In that scenario, Lacob could decide after the season if Smart is the right coach for the job or if a change needs to be made.
I would prefer that Nelson is let go before the season begins. I feel that his manner of coaching, his offensive system and the lack of accountability on defense could do more harm than good to the young, impressionable players on this roster. But, if there isn’t a better option right now, it’s OK for Lacob to wait until he can put the right coach in place. If that means giving Nelson another few months to coach, so be it.
Tim Kawakami writes that Lacob may decide to give Nelson and general manager Larry Riley “test drives” for the 2010-11 season. Read it here.
David Lee gives two thumbs down to Isiah Thomas’ administrative talents. The former Knicks general manger was hired last week as a consultant by the Knicks. Read it here.
Don Nelson says he won’t report to coach the Warriors until he’s told to do so. Meanwhile, Nelson has been enjoying his time in Hawaii, golfing with Stephen Curry and his father, Dell. Read it here.