'The Hall of Fame is about greatness,' Don Nelson said upon his Friday induction into the Hoops Hall. 'I'm a lot of things, but none of them are great.' He's being modest, of course; his innovation was great, his win total was great, his turnaround ability was great (as Mavs fans know) ... and his speech was great, too.
DONUT 1: "I'm a lot of things, but ...''
"The Hall of Fame is about greatness," Nelson said. "I'm a lot of things, but none of them are great."
Nellie's wrong, of course. His greatest skill was the ability to turn bad programs into good ones, as he surely did with your Mavs. His most notable accomplishment in the eyes of the world at large was the creation of the "point forward'' position. But as we all know, it was his care and feeding of a teenager named Dirk Nowitzki that truly tops the charts.
DONUT 2: "The Mad Scientist'' ...
Yes, the "point forward'' is his. The highlight of 7-foot-6 Manute Bol launching from the 3-point line is amusing. And just as Warriors fans remember that he sent 6-4 Mario Elie into a game as a center to guard 7-1 David Robinson, we remember him doing the same think with 6-3 Erick Strickland covering Tim Duncan.
It was "mad scientist'' stuff. It was bar-napkin stuff -- and I know that first-hand because I was, on more than a few occasions, one barstool over as Nellie was scribbling on those napkins between swings on a longneck.
Maybe, too, it was creative because some of his teams were bad and creativity was the only way to close the gap. And don't ignore this issue, either: Nellie liked to amuse himself. He said this weekend that he wouldn't have utilized SmallBall had he been blessed with the weaponry (in his early Dallas Mavericks years certainly) to dominate in a more conventional manner.
I'm not sure of that. Nellie knew this was entertainment, a show. And he wanted to entertain ... and be part of the show.
DONUT 3: "I gotta go take a piss'' ...
Not too many years ago, Nellie did a weekly radio show with me. It wasn't quite like the other weekly radio show he did elsewhere. That one was his "official'' show. He was paid handsomely to do it. But I am forever thankful that, for whatever reason, he volunteered to do a second weekly show. With me.
For no pay.
Don Nelson doesn't do very many things for no pay. (Ask Cuban.) So I was, and am, flattered.
Once, he was on the phone with me, live on the air, on the day before the draft, when he blurted out:
"Fish, I gotta go take a piss. Here, talk to Stacom for awhile.''
At which point I continued the Mavs draft preview interview with Dallas scout Kevin Stacom ... until the point Nellie was done in the toilet and grabbed the phone back from Stacom.
DONUT 4: His speech ...
That sort of casual irreverence was very much evident in Nellie's Friday night speech in Springfield:
DONUT 5: Almost a ref ...
Nellie's speech includes his unusual ascent to a head-coaching job. It omits, however, the reason he landed in coaching:
It's because he was a failure as a ref.
Let Del Harris tell the story.
"He had failed as a potential referee in the NBA," Harris says. "And he became assistant coach of the Milwaukee Bucks. They sent him to a preseason game in Memphis, and he sat next to me. We had never met. He said: 'You know, Coach, this is my first game to scout, can you help me out a little?'
"So I did, and then halfway through the season, they fired the coach (Larry Costello), and Nellie became the head coach at Milwaukee. I called him and he said: 'You know, I was just getting the hang of this scouting stuff and now I'm the head coach.'''
Nellie's story cannot be told, of course, without including people like Del. to Nellie's credit, you'll notice his speech includes mention of key defensive assistants at every stop.
DONUT 6: Donnie at Esparza's! ...
This is, of course, a commercial message because of how the gang at Esparza's in Grapevine loves the Mavs. But I squeeze it in here because (besides paying the bills!) it fits. ... Nellie's Everyman nature has been passed down to his son, Donnie. He has been in play in so many DB.com Get-Togethers that the GM of the Mavs has involved himself in. How much does Donnie charge for his participation in our parties?
Same thing his dad used to charge me for radio shows. Nothin'. Nellie used to take a bunch of us to bars in the West End. Donnie now hangs out with us at places like Esparza's. We invite you to hang out with us there, too.
DONUT 7: Want more Mavs? ...
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DONUT 9: Today at the AAC ...
Today marks the day the new veterans -- Kaman, Brand, Collison, Dahntay and Mayo -- meet the media at the AAC. We'll have exclusive video and all the notes from the Monday at Mavs HQ ... stay tuned to DB.com for all of it!
DONUT 10: No title, but ...
As a coach, Nellie is No. 1 with 1,335 victories. Plus there are the 18 playoff appearances and the three Coach of the Year awards ... all with no title.
He won five as a sharp-elbowed Celtics scorer. Those titles help him deserve enshrinement and they will have to do.
DONUT 11: Shinola ...
Nellie is not coming back to coaching, I don't think, though a payday in Minnesota was exciting him earlier this summer. Money, though, is not an issue. Somehow, throughout his NBA coaching travels, he seems to always come away with a piece of the franchise (or a pound of the owner's flesh). He and Joy can jet into Dallas as they do to see Donnie and the grandkids or they can relax at their Maui home and play poker with the locals or play high finance by investing in everything from flowers to watches to bicycles to coffee beans to flavored shaved-ice.
One of the umbrella companies is called "Shinola.'' Which fits.
DONUT 12: The Final Word ...
“Hopefully, this will be the last tuxedo that I’m wearing,” Nelson said at the close of his his 12-minute speech and fade into the Maui sunset. “There is life after basketball. I’m having a great time. Come on and have a cup of coffee on Maui with me. I’ve got a coffee shop there and some shaved ice. Come on down.”