MINNEAPOLIS, April 8 – Don Nelson became the winningest coach in NBA history Wednesday as his Golden State Warriors beat Minnesota 116-107, giving the maverick head coach win No. 1,333.
The victory not only vaulted Nelson past Lenny Wilkens but established him as a virtual lock for a spot in the American basketball hall of fame. He is the only NBA coach with at least 1,000 wins that is not in the hall of fame.
Nelson has 1,061 losses to go with his 1,333 wins and through it all he has done it his way, clashing with owners, management and players but winning the respect of those who worked with him.
"The success he’s had, the longevity he’s had, it’s tough to be a coach in this league and to stick around as long as he has," Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said.
"To have the success that he’s had, the numerous situations he’s been in. He’s done a great job."
Stephen Curry finished with 27 points, 14 assists and seven steals and Anthony Tolliver scored a career-high 34 points to get the 69-year-old Nelson the historic win.
Kevin Love had 17 points and 18 rebounds for the losers.
Warriors’ Ronny Turiaf put the exclamation point on the win by pouring a cup of juice over Nelson’s head as the players mob their coach at the end of the game.
Nelson has family that lives in Minnesota and they were at the game along with his wife who made the trip.
Nelson felt humbled by surpassing Wilkens.
"Lenny’s been an idol of mine for a long time," he said.
Nelson’s first head coaching job was in Milwaukee in 1976 when he replaced Larry Costello 19 games into the season.
He has also coached the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks. In 2006-07he led the eighth-seeded Warriors to an upset of Dallas in the opening round of the Western Conference playoffs.