Timing right for Warriors to replace Nelson and start over with Smart
As a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers,
Simply put, forcing out Nelson -- who according to the
It would have been easy for Lacob to keep Nelson; he had plenty of cover. Lacob and co-owner
Waiting, however, could have had disastrous results. The 70-year-old Nelson knew he was on borrowed time in Oakland, telling FanHouse in August that he wouldn't come back to the Warriors "until I get a call to come home." Three of his assistant coaches jumped ship over the summer and those that stayed did it with the understanding that they were only delaying the job search by a year. Nelson's pursuit of the NBA's all-time wins mark ended in April, when he backed into the record at the tail end of a 26-win season. Nelson's motivation, at this point, was strictly financial. He wanted that $6 million and was going to get it, one way or another.
Thursday's resolution makes everybody happy. Nellie gets paid and he can go back to enjoying retirement on the sandy Hawaiian beaches. The Warriors avoid the distractions that come with a lame duck coach and can begin the rebuilding process a year early.
"I respect Don a lot," Lacob told the
Of course, Smart may not be the answer. A basketball vagabond as a player, Smart has been a fixture on the Warriors bench for the last six seasons and before that posted a 9-31 record as interim coach with the pre-LeBron Cavaliers in 2002-03. His coaching philosophies are largely unknown and there is no telling how the players will respond to an inexperienced head coach with such close ties to the former regime.
Still, Smart will bring an enthusiasm to the job that Nelson lacked during his final days. Smart has made no secret of his desire to be a head coach and passionately filled the role when Nelson missed time last season while battling pneumonia.
"I've been very fortunate that when Nellie came, he said I want to put you in a position to be a head coach in the NBA again," Smart said last November. "He's given me a lot of freedom as far as running practices, running timeouts, running games. The players understand my voice. They know what I want, what I want to do and how I want to do it."
It's not like Lacob had many alternatives, either.
But with Nelson gone, the Warriors can finally look towards the future without being encompassed by the shadow of the past. A new era has begun in Golden State and let's face it, it can't be much worse than the last.