Nelson hopes to coach Warriors in '10
LAS VEGAS -- The winningest coach in NBA history doesn't deny that his future with the Golden State Warriors is in doubt.
But Don Nelson hopes to convince the Warriors' new ownership to keep him on the bench for one more season.
In a phone interview Thursday, Nelson told ESPN.com that he is eager to coach newcomer David Lee alongside Stephen Curry and serve out the final season remaining on his contract, despite persistent speculation about his job security.
I'd love to coach another year, but I understand that it's a possibility [I won't be retained]. I want to do what's best for the organization. If I have to be a part of the change, I will understand.” -- Don Nelson
Yet Nelson also acknowledged that he would "understand" if Mandalay Entertainment Group CEO Peter Guber and Bay Area businessman Joe Lacob -- who agreed to terms Thursday to purchase the Warriors from Chris Cohan for a reported $450 million -- decide to start over and hire their own coach.
"I'm excited about the new ownership," Nelson said. "I think this team needed that kind of change.
"I think we've made a couple good deals to improve the roster. I really love Lee and I think our locker room is getting cleaned up. We're really moving in a good direction.
"I'd love to coach another year, but I understand that it's a possibility [I won't be retained]. I want to do what's best for the organization. If I have to be a part of the change, I will understand."
After just one playoff appearance in Cohan's 16 seasons, pockets of Golden State's famously loyal fans are hoping for a housecleaning that would lead to the ousters of team president Robert Rowell, general manager Larry Riley and Nelson, who has one season left on his contract at $6 million.
But one source close to the situation, pointing out that the Guber-Lacob takeover will not be finalized for 60 to 90 days, told ESPN.com on Thursday that it is possible that Nelson would be given the chance to finish out his contract, since the Warriors wouldn't be able to hire a replacement until the sale goes through.
The expectation in league coaching circles, however, remains that Golden State will make a change before training camp starts in late September. If so, Nelson would still be owed the $6 million.
In an interview Thursday with the Contra Costa Times, Lacob declined to specifically address the futures of Rowell, Riley and Nelson, saying: "I'm not going to talk about that. But we've thought about this. We're fans just like everybody else. We think we understand what has to be done. But I'm going to take my time. We've got to close this deal first. We've got to get league approval."
After a messy end to his first stint as Warriors coach -- he landed in court with Cohan in a dispute over money -- Nelson was stunningly brought back to Golden State by Cohan and then-GM Chris Mullin for the 2006-07 season.
Fueled by a late-season surge after the acquisition of Stephen Jackson, Nelson guided the long-suffering Warriors to their first playoff appearance since 1993-94, which was Nelson's last full season with the club. The 42-40 Warriors then ousted the 67-win Dallas Mavericks -- another team Nelson left in acrimony -- in the first round of the playoffs to record the first triumph in league history by a No. 8 seed over a No. 1 seed in a seven-game series.
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Golden State won 48 games in the following season, only to narrowly miss the playoffs in an ultracompetitive Western Conference.
The past two seasons, however, have been filled with turmoil and injuries, costing Mullin his job along the way and resulting in records of 29-53 and 26-56. One of the few bright spots in that span was Golden State's 5-3 record in April, when a collection of youngsters and D-Leaguers led by Rookie of the Year runner-up Curry ultimately enabled Nelson to surpass Lenny Wilkens for the most coaching wins in NBA history on April 7 at Minneapolis.
Nelson, who turned 70 on May 15, now sports a career record of 1,335-1,063 in coaching stints with Milwaukee, New York, Dallas and two with Golden State.
At the NBA's annual summer league in Las Vegas, Riley told AOL Fanhouse that he had yet to speak with the new owners. When asked about his and Nelson's future, Riley said: "I would think some of that will start coming down here in the next few days."
Riley has been one of the league's busier executives of late, shipping Corey Maggette to Milwaukee and completing the sign-and-trade with New York for Lee.
"I'm going to do my job until I'm told otherwise," Riley told Fanhouse.
There have been numerous media reports in recent months that Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West would have been pursued to run Golden State's front office -- with former Phoenix Suns executive David Griffin hired to head day-to-day operations -- had Oracle CEO Larry Ellison won the bidding for the Warriors.
Guber and Lacob have NBA ties, but little is known about their intentions.
Lacob didn't reference any of the Warriors' current decision-makers by name in his interview with the Contra Costa Times but was complimentary about the team's business operations, which are headed by Rowell.
"I do want to say that they did a good job," Lacob told the Times. "Things on the business side have [gone] very, very well. Obviously I know it's all about the results on the court. We all get judged on results and I expect and I expect to be judged on the results."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.