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Warriors: Let Don Nelson Retire.

The more rumors I read about the Don Nelson situation, the more certain I am the Warriors should let him go. The basic conflict goes like this: Don Nelson wants a guaranteed contract for three more years at $5 million per year (depending on what rumors you choose to believe). The Warriors, led by GM Chris Mullin, want to pay Nellie $5.1 next year with a team option for the second year. Nellie has threatened to retire if he doesn’t get the deal he wants. Thus, the standstill.

Nelson shouldn’t be brought back. Here’s why:

1. Employees that threaten to retire shouldn’t be encouraged to stay.

Think about this one for a second — Nellie’s not threatening to go find a better coaching opportunity, he’s threatening to leave coaching forever. That’s not a simple decision. Retirement means never having to answer to anyone ever again. It also means you feel like you’ve done everything you needed to do. Retirement is permanent, and it’s a different mental state. Using money to keep Nellie from retiring would be foolish because, fundamentally, he doesn’t want to work anymore.

2. Nellie has a history of playing games.

Some people will read my first point and say “Nellie’s just saying that he wants to retire — he doesn’t really mean it.” Here’s a question — why keep an employee in such a trusted position when you think he might be lying to your face? Nellie’s position with the Warriors is crucial — coaches can make or break teams, and their impact lasts one or two seasons longer than their tenure. So asking a lying, game playing coach to run your locker room for the next season or two could damage your prospects for the next 3 or 4 years. There isn’t a management book in the world that would suggest you keep a guy like Nelson if you think he’s lying to you.

3. Take the hit now — don’t save it for later.

The case for keeping Don Nelson, and bowing to his contract demands, is that Nelson’s departure could cause the team to lose momentum. NEWS FLASH — Nelson is 67 years old. He’s going to leave sooner or later. Why not take the hit now when you’ve got the fans excited and the team believing in themselves? Every year that he coaches, the belief that Nellie is the reason for the Warriors’ success is reinforced. Let Nelson go now, and you have a better chance of convincing the players and fans that Nelson just accelerated an inevitable return to primacy, not the other way around.

4. If you give a mouse a cookie…

Ok — let’s say you take the first three reasons and throw them out the window. Let’s say you give Nelson what he wants. What’s to stop him from pulling the same stunt again next year? Let’s say Nelson gets his 3 year, $5 million a year guaranteed contract. Let’s say he leads the Warriors to the Western Conference Finals (hard to believe I know, but let’s pretend). What happens next year? Does he threaten to retire again? It worked once before, why wouldn’t he try? What if the Warriors don’t get farther — what if they choked? Would Nelson say he didn’t want to stay because the team sucked? Here’s something I’ve learned in the business world: You can’t negotiate with an unreasonable person. Nelson has proven in the past he can be unreasonable at times. The Warriors should know that whatever Nelson does this offseason will probably be repeated at some time in the future.

Nellie is a great guy, and a great coach, but he should be allowed to leave. He’s proven that he’s not committed to basketball because he’s threatening to retire, and he’s proven he’s not committed to the Warriors because he’s trying to renegotiate a standing contract. Let Nellie leave on a high note. Taking the Warriors to the second round of the playoffs was an accomplishment, and using “Nellie ball” to beat the Mavericks was awesome. Now, Nelson should go to Hawaii and enjoy the good life and the Warriors should take their lumps and move on.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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