SAN FRANCISCO -- He is among the greatest basketball coaches ever to walk a sideline. Creative and abrasive, accomplished yet unfulfilled, all wrapped in a 6-foot-7 package of Svengali.
Some say Don Nelson, who served two stints coaching the Warriors, was brutally honest, others insist needlessly cruel. There is little dispute, though, that “Nellie” could be as subjective as the sun is hot.
If you were one of “his guys,” you could do little wrong.
If you weren’t, you knew it early and you heard it often -- as former Warriors center Adonal Foyle, who was on the roster for 10 seasons, discovered in 2006.
“Don Nelson told me the first day he showed up at the gym: ‘You suck. You’ll never play for me. You make too much money.’ That was it,“ Foyle recalled Tuesday on the Warriors Insider Podcast.
“And he was having a cigar when he did it.”
Foyle, who returned to the Warriors in 2014 to serves as a Community Ambassador, clearly enjoyed his time with the “We Believe” Warriors, despite and because of the presence of Nelson. Foyle quickly learned about the two sides of Nellie.
Nelson had favorites. There was, in his first stint coaching the Warriors, Chris Mullin and Tim Hardaway, to name two. In his second stint, there was Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson.
Yet the list of those who could not seem to escape Nelson’s doghouse may have been longer, including the likes of Terry Teagle, Tyrone Hill, Sarunas Marciulionis and, later, Al Harrington, Ike Diogu, Marco Belinelli. Nelson’s most famous object of disgust was, of course, Chris Webber.
Foyle, who logged 1,824 minutes before Nelson’s arrival in 2006, played only 475 minutes in 2006-07.
“I knew I wasn’t going to play, because he made it clear,” Foyle recalled. “So I could be pissed off. I could be angry.
“I’m just going to be there. I’m just going to do my job the best way I could for that year. And I’m just going to learn. And I’m just going to help our where I can. I’ll help my teammates out. I’ll do the job that I’m paid to do.”
Foyle, the team’s all-time leader in blocked shots (1,140), scored a total of 107 points that season. His 50 blocks ranked third on the team. His ratio of blocks, one every 9.5 minutes, led the team.
The Warriors staged a furious rally to close the season, ending a 13-year postseason drought by gaining the No. 8 seed. They pulled off an epic upset, stunning top-seeded Dallas in the first round.
The Utah Jazz in the second round eliminated the Warriors in five games, the last played on May 15.
Ninety days later, Nelson and the Warriors bought out Foyle’s contract. He spent his final two seasons in Orlando and Memphis.