Don Nelson is an American former basketball player who played for the ‘National Basketball Association’ (NBA). He is best known for his career as a basketball coach. Nelson attained fame due to his unconventional style of coaching. The unique offensive strategy developed by Nelson is known as the “Nellie Ball.” Nelson started his basketball career while in high school. Later, during his university days, he continued to excel in the game. He was drafted by the ‘Chicago Zephyrs’ for the ‘NBA.’ Following this, he played for the ‘Boston Celtics,’ too. During his playing career, Nelson made a mark by using his distinctive style. After retiring as a player, Nelson turned into a basketball coach. He was first appointed as the head coach of the ‘Milwaukee Bucks.’ During his tenure, Nelson introduced several revolutionary strategies, which helped the team seal many major wins. It was during this period that the famous “Nellie Ball” technique was introduced. After a few years, Nelson resigned from the position, following some controversies. Later, he acted as the head coach for the ‘New York Knicks,’ the ‘Dallas Mavericks,’ and the ‘Golden State Warriors.’ He is regarded as one of the top 10 coaches in the history of the ‘NBA.’ Nelson was inducted into the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.’ He is currently leading a retired life in the Hawaiian Islands.
Childhood & Early Life
Don Nelson was born Donald Arvid Nelson, on May 15, 1940, in Michigan, to Arvid and Agnes Nelson. He grew up with his two sisters. He attended the ‘Rock Island High School,’ where he was actively involved in basketball.
Nelson joined the ‘University of Iowa’ for his higher studies. He was part of the university team and performed exceptionally well. In 1962, Nelson discontinued his studies, as he was selected for the ‘NBA.’ Later, in 2012, he completed his graduation in physical education.
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In 1962, Nelson was selected as the 17th draft by the ‘Chicago Zephyrs’ of the ‘NBA.’ He played for them for one season. Following this, he was selected by the ‘Los Angeles Lakers.’ Later, he was signed by the ‘Boston Celtics.’ His tenure with them was the longest in his career..
While playing for the ‘Celtics,’ Nelson gave an impressive performance. He helped his team win several ‘NBA’ titles. He was regarded as one of the best “sixth men” to ever play in the ‘NBA.’ Nelson introduced new techniques that enhanced his career. In 1976, he retired as a player.
Following his retirement, Don Nelson took up the role of a basketball coach. In 1976, he was signed as the general manager and head coach of the ‘Milwaukee Bucks.’ In his first trade for the team, Nelson traded Swen Nater to the ‘Buffalo Braves’ and received Marques Johnson in return. This turned out to be an excellent choice. Nelson was known for his unique style of trading players.
While coaching the ‘Milwaukee Bucks,’ Nelson displayed an innovative and unconventional method. It was during this period that he introduced the concept of “point forward,” which was not too popular till then. In this technique, small forwards were used to direct the offense. This came to be known as the “Nellie Ball.”
Nelson won the title of the ‘NBA Coach of the Year’ in 1983 and 1985. In 1987, Nelson developed disagreements with the owner of the ‘Milwaukee Bucks’ and resigned from his position.
After his resignation from the ‘Milwaukee Bucks,’ Nelson was appointed as the head coach of the ‘Golden State Warriors.’ He implemented his innovative ideas, and introduced an unconventional lineup of players. In 1991–1992, Nelson was named the ‘NBA Coach of the Year,’ while he was the coach to ‘Golden State Warriors.’ In the 1994–1995 season, there was a dispute between Nelson and the team management, regarding the trading of Chris Webber. Following this, Nelson resigned from the team.
In 1994, Nelson coached the national basketball team of the US, for the ‘FIBA World Championship.’ The team was named ‘Dream Team II.’ They won the gold medal.
In 1995, Nelson was appointed as the coach of the ‘New York Knicks.’ Nelson favored the offensive style of play, which was against the defensive style preferred by the ‘Knicks.’ In 1996, Nelson was removed from his position.
In 1997, Nelson took over as the head coach of the ‘Dallas Mavericks.’ He made some excellent trades and led the team to several consecutive wins. In 2005, Nelson stepped down from the position of coach, naming Avery Johnson as his successor.
In 2006, Nelson was appointed as the head coach of the ‘Golden State Warriors,’ for the second time. Initially, the ‘Warriors’ performed well under the leadership of Nelson and had several wins. However, in the later seasons, the team’s performance deteriorated. Following this, Nelson resigned from his position.
In December 2001, Nelson became the third coach in the history of the ‘NBA’ to win 1,000 games. In 2009, he had 1,300 wins to his credit. In September 2012, Nelson was inducted into the ‘Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.’
Family & Personal Life
In 1991, Nelson married Joy Wolfgram. They have six children from their previous marriages. Nelson had fifteen grandchildren as of 2012. His son, Donnie Nelson, is the manager of the ‘Dallas Mavericks.’
Currently, Nelson is leading a retired life in Maui. He owns farms where he grows coffee, flowers, and cannabis.