The next stop for Don Nelson: the American basketball Hall of Fame.Nelson broke the record for most victories as a coach in NBA history on Wednesday night when his Golden State Warriors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 116-107. It was the 1,333rd victory of his career, surpassing Lenny Wilkens, and made him an odds-on certainty to be elected into the Hall of Fame.
"I actually would have been very happy to be tied. It would have been fine with me," Nelson said on usurping Wilkens. "My boys did it tonight. They found a way to get it done. I told them in the huddle that I loved them to death but sometimes they are a pain in the butt to coach." The Warriors' Ronny Turiaf celebrated the victory by pouring a cup of juice over Nelson's head as all the players mobbed their coach in jubilation at the end of the game.
Nelson has 1,061 losses to go with his 1,333 wins. He has coached four teams, and through it all he has done it his way: clashing with owners, management and players, but winning the respect of those who worked with and against him. "The success he's had, the longevity he's had, it's tough to be a coach in this league and to stick around as long as he has," said Kurt Rambis, the Timberwolves coach. "He's done a great job."
Stephen Curry finished with 27 points, 14 assists and seven steals and Anthony Tolliver scored a career-high 34 points to help Nelson achieve the historic win. Nelson has family that lives in Minnesota and they were at the game, along with his wife who made the trip from California. The 69-year-old coach said he felt humbled by surpassing Wilkens. "Lenny's been an idol of mine for a long time," he said.
Nelson's first head coaching job was in Milwaukee in 1976, when he replaced Larry Costello 19 games into the season.
He has also coached the Dallas Mavericks and the New York Knicks. In 2006/07 he led the eighth-seeded Warriors to an upset over Dallas in the opening round of the Western Conference play-offs.
* Associated Press and AFP