Coaching changes

Don Nelson says aloha

You’ve already heard the chatter that Don Nelson is meeting with David Kahn to discuss the Wolves’ coaching vacancy. We’re not sure if this is actually happening but we do know that, on Nellie’s end at least, his interest is no rumor. Here’s what he told Jerry Zgoda of the Strib:

“Really, throughout my career, what I’ve done is taken teams with bad records and with every situation I’ve made them better,” he said. “I like to be around young players. I’ve had great success with bad teams, getting them on the right track, getting them to max out. I have a great history there…There’s talent there. Maybe they just need to change the tempo and play a little faster there.”

For a moment, let’s put aside questions of whether or not the Wolves are built to play as fast as Kahn and Nellie evidently want them to. (Beckley Mason casts a seriously skeptical eye on the whole notion right here.) That isn’t even what really concerns me.

Now, I love Nellie for the his wasted, grandfatherly demeanor (and the image of him making phone calls from his Hawaiian beach home, scotch in hand, shirt unbuttoned, tummy gleaming in the sun, breezily sowing chaos even in retirement). I love his penchant for spreading pandemonium, for unsettling the NBA’s “play the right way” conservatism. I love that he unleashed Nash and Nowitzki (and van Exel! remember that?) and that he coached those raggedly manic 2007 Warriors as they undressed the 67-win Mavs.

Those Warriors were the NBA’s id, its dark, chaotic dream of freedom. They played with wild bravado and absurd belief; they ran relentlessly; they shot unconscionably. But they were specifically, temperamentally cut out to play that way. Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington and Monta Ellis: these are the people you want on your side when order dissolves away, when the game becomes a contest of anarchic, foaming charisma.

But that charisma soon began to erode. The unchained offense was still in place but the Warriors began to put on astonishing displays of defensive indifference (like this one). Nellie’s substitution patterns came to seem more and more haphazard as he buried young, talented players on the bench for no discernible reason. The losses piled up, his teams slid into irrelevance and his adventures came to seem less like an existential threat and more like a sideshow (see, for instance, this ridiculous spectacle).

Our young crew may have Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love, but right now they have very little of that ’07 Warrior-ball swagger. They are young and fragile and without an identity. I worry that drinking Nellie’s potion would make them callow and insubstantial, diverting but ultimately irrelevant. Considering the repeated minor humiliations of the past few years, that is the last thing they need.


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