Don Nelson the Front-runner for Timberwolves Coaching Job?


“Nellie Ball” may be on the horizon in Minnesota.

In the two years since General Manager David Kahn took the keys to the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise, he’s turned the team into more of a track and field squad than that of a championship caliber NBA team.

Kahn’s desire to incorporate more of a up-tempo style of game has the potential to do wonders in getting the Timberwolves out of the cellar of the Western Conference. But only the right coach can turn a run-and-gun style into a playoff contender.

Insert Don Nelson, the NBA’s all-time leader in coaching victories.

According to The Sporting News, the Timberwolves coaching vacancy has drawn the interest from the coaching legend.

Nelson, 71, was let go by Golden State in 2010. And while many believed that would be Nelson’s fifth an final stint, the record setting coach has been in contact with Kahn over the past week.

Per The Sporting News’ report, Nelson “planned to talk a second time to general manager David Kahn this weekend.”

But what would draw Nelson out of his retirement in Hawaii to coach a team in the tundra of Minnesota that won a combined 32 games in the past two seasons?

“Nellie Ball” is in essence the style of play that Kahn wants to install in his young Timberwolves squad. Get up and down the floor fast, while being efficient on the offensive end.

While Nelson has family that currently reside in Minnesota, the personal in place for the 2011-12 Timberwolves squad is the top intrigue factor for Nelson. Per the report:

Minnesota also offers the opportunity to coach a roster filled with young, athletic players who are being asked to run and gun by their GM. Kahn wants the Wolves to play at a fast pace whenever the NBA returns from the lockout. That just happens to be Nelson’s M.O.

Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love is the ideal power forward in Don Nelson’s style of play. He hits the offensive glass hard, and can stretch the floor with his long-range shooting touch. But the main facet of Love’s game that would fit exceptionally with “Nellie Ball” is his uncanny ability get the ball up the court fast with his Wes Unseld-like outlet passes. Allowing for the guards to move the ball up the floor quickly, while leading to quick, easy baskets.

Nelson himself has been pitching “Nellie Ball” in Minnesota. Nelson told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “”I think they’ve got a team that can really go and there’s nobody better at that than me. I like to play fast.”

It seems as though Nelson in Minnesota makes too much sense.

But what factors are working against Nelson?

For one, his age. At 71 Nelson wouldn’t realistically be expected to coach in Minnesota for more than three to four years. Kahn’s rebuilding efforts have seemed to focus around bringing in a young coach who could stay with this team for some time to come.

Another factor is that there is a perception out there that Kahn wants to bring in a “yes man” as a coach. Someone who will do everything the third year GM wants. Nelson brings a wealth of experience, and at times has the potential to be a hard bargain for Kahn.

A third factor is money. Nelson wouldn’t come cheap to a team that has already had to pay Kurt Rambis’ buyout.

Finally– like most NBA off-season decsions– the lockout will play a large factor. At 71, it’s hard to assume that Nelson will want to deal with the frustrating next few months of uncertainty over the 2011-12 season.

At this point a lot is unknown.

After the clouds settle of the NBA lockout, it is my hope that  “Nellie Ball” will be in it’s opening stages in Minnesota.

Aside from Nelson there are only a few plausible options for Kahn and company.

-Brett Cloutier

Brett is a contributor to The Sports Bank as beat writer for the Minnesota Timberwolves. You can follow him on Twitter @brettcloutier

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