Winderman: Don Nelson deserves Hall call
The only way the snub could have been more cutting is if the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame selection committee came out Monday and announced why it did not select those snubbed from this year’s class.
As it is, basketball’s Hall has the most anonymous selection process of any of the major sports.
But don’t, for a second, think there isn’t a degree of politics involved.
The latter stages of Don Nelson’s career hardly have featured his best work. Disinterested is among the best of definitions. He has feuded with owners. He has humiliated veterans and rookies alike. At times, it seemingly only has been about the money.
But he also is now tied for the all-time lead in NBA coaching victories.
And isn’t victory the ultimate measure of the entire process?
Each of the other six winningest NBA coaches are in the Hall except Nellie, with Jerry Sloan making it last year.
Bill Fitch, seventh on the list, one spot ahead of Red Auerbach, isn’t, but that nasty .460 winning percentage does get in the way.
Certainly Nellie could have handled the politics far better. It never seems to end well, and it probably won’t this time, either, with the Warriors on the verge of an ownership shakeup.
But few have innovated to the degree of Nellie, be it the utilization of point forwards to the deployment of zone defenses long before the NBA came around to his thinking.
Yes, there was Manute Bol shooting 3-pointers. And, yes, there was the decision to minimize Patrick Ewing during the brief run in New York.
But if winning games doesn’t mean everything, then what does the Hall stand for?
And if longevity doesn’t factor heavily into the equation, then why the insistence on coaches having spent 25 years on the bench to be considered while still actively employed?
All we know is this: Don Nelson has coached more than twice as many NBA victories than Chucky Daly and nearly twice as many as Red Holzman, and they both are enshrined in Springfield.
Nellie’s resume won’t improve from here.
We likely are in the final days of seeing him on the sidelines.
Then, soon, it’ll be off, for good, to Hawaii, where he could wind up out of sight, out of mind.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.