As soon as the new ownership was in place for the Golden State Warriors, there were signs that Don Nelson’s reign would soon come to an end. And last night, those suspicions turned into fact.
Don Nelson is out; as of Monday, Warriors assistant coach Keith Smart will be in the big chair on the bench.
According to the local press, Smart is quite popular with the players. From the Contra Costa Times:
[Players] all said they’d rather Don Nelson to be back, but if the team went a different direction, their vote was for Keith Smart. Certainly, Smart has the support in the locker room. And he makes the most sense because of the timing. He has already prepped for training camp (he and Stephen Silas did on their own) and he already has a rapport with the players. He has been groomed by Nelson, in Nelson’s system. Also, he’s young enough and inexperienced enough to allow the Warriors to put him on a trial basis.
But is he the guy for the future? Smart has at least earned a shot to prove it. He’s been the model assistant for six years now. He’s been doing more than most any assistant coach in the league – running practices, orchestrating the defense, putting out Nellie fires — in addition to his regular game duties.Plus, Smart is hardly too expensive to replace. Owner Joe Lacob said he had a “multi-year arrangement.” That sounds like he’s under contract for a few years, and if he doesn’t work as the head coach, he would have the ability to go back to being an assistant.
It remains to be seen just how long of a leash Keith Smart will be given by his new bosses, and what kind of learning curve they’ll be willing to tolerate.
The Don Nelson Era — a brilliant, confusing, endlessly frustrating era — has come to an end. But not before he finishes collecting on the full $6 million remaining on his contract.
In 31 seasons, Nelson compiled a record of 1,335-1,063.