Don Nelson, the pioneering head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, told a reporter on Wednesday that he has been informed that he'll be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a part of the 2012 class. The formal announcement is expected to come Monday, but Nellie apparently doesn't understand the concept of a news embargo.
Nelson has more wins than NBA coach in history (1,335) and sits at No. 3 in losses (1,063). While Nelson has a career winning percentage of .557, among the seven coaches with at least 1,000 wins, that's the second lowest winning percentage (ahead of Lenny Wilkens' .536).
Nelson's major contributions to the game include the introduction and widespread use of the point forward (see Paul Pressey in Milwaukee) and the principle of letting very tall men shoot very long shots (Manute Bol, Dirk Nowitzki, Raef LaFrentz, Wang Zhizhi). Nelson was also one half of the movement in the very early '00s to return the game to its high-tempo roots, as "Nellieball" in Dallas sparked a rivalry with the Princeton-infused speed attack of Rick Adelman's Sacramento club.
Nelson's image was tarnished a good deal late in his career as Golden State went into a tailspin after the "We Believe" team broke up. Nelson was replaced by longtime assistant Keith Smart (now with Sacramento) and left behind close friend Larry Riley as the club's general manager.
In addition to long stints with the Bucks, Warriors (twice) and Mavericks, Nellie spent the better part of a season minding the New York Knicks in the mid-90s. It did not end well.
Reggie Miller, Rick Pitino and Maurice Cheeks are among the other finalists for 2012 honors.