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Don Nelson steps down as Mavs coach
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Old 19 Mar 2005, 08:09 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Don Nelson steps down as Mavs coach

http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2016984

Johnson to replace Nelson immediately
ESPN.com news services


DALLAS -- Don Nelson, the second-winningest coach in NBA history, resigned as coach of the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday and turned the team over to protege Avery Johnson.

"I see a little slippage as a team," Nelson said. "The team is just responding better to Avery at this point."

The 64-year-old Nelson also had the title of general manager, but most of those duties were done by his son, Donnie, the team's president of basketball operations. The elder Nelson will stay with the team as a consultant.

"Nellie has earned the right to approach this any way he wants," team owner Mark Cuban said. "I just wanted to be supportive of any direction he wants to go."

Cuban told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that Nelson resigned Saturday "for family and other reasons."

Nelson leaves with a career record of 1,190-880 over 27 seasons, including stints with Milwaukee, Golden State and the New York Knicks. Only Lenny Wilkens has won more games as a coach -- 1,332. Wilkens stepped down as coach of the New York Knicks earlier this season.

Although he never won a championship, or even made it to the NBA Finals, Nelson was considered a master of mismatches who won games early in his career by stressing defense, then later made a mark with clubs that tried outscoring everyone.

Nelson went 339-251 in Dallas, tops in franchise history both in wins and winning percentage. It's even more impressive considering he started 35-81 before going 40-42 in 2000.

Johnson already has coached the team for 13 games this year, first while Nelson had shoulder surgery, then recently when Nelson took time off to be with his wife after she had an operation. Johnson also has run practices since training camp and had some test runs as the coach with Nelson serving as his assistant.

His first game was Saturday night at home against Charlotte. Dallas went into it 42-22 and in good position to get the fourth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, which gets home-court advantage in the first round.

When Johnson coached the Mavs, he stressed defense. Nelson's emphasis was offense. The mixed message could be part of the reason Dallas has struggled recently, especially at home.

"We're going to keep moving forward," Johnson said. "We're not trying to abandon the things that Coach has implemented here, but there are some things that I feel a little stronger about."

Johnson, the starting point guard on San Antonio's 1999 title team, first joined Nelson's staff during the team's run to the Western Conference finals in 2002 when he was left off the playoff roster. Nelson wanted him back last season, even though Johnson was playing for Golden State. The league didn't allow it, so Johnson signed with Dallas this summer to be a player-coach. He wound up retiring in training camp to focus strictly on coaching.

Nelson isn't the only one who thought highly of Johnson's coaching ability. League GMs voted him the player most likely to become a coach each of the last two years.

Nelson, a former Boston Celtics star, came to the club as general manager in 1997, hoping to salvage a lost franchise that had just traded Jason Kidd. Within months he traded every player he inherited except Michael Finley, fired coach Jim Cleamons and took over himself, then eventually added Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash. All told, his moves turned Dallas from lottery regulars to a consistent 50-win team.

Dallas is the eighth team to make a coaching change this season, following Memphis, New York, Denver, the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota, Portland and Orlando.

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Not really suprising considering the way they were grooming Avery Johnson to take over. I thought that he would at least wait till the offseason to do it though.
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Old 19 Mar 2005, 08:12 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I thought his son Donn Nelson would be the heir.
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