Coach Don Nelson put his celebratory beer can on the table, settled into a chair for his postgame interview and smiled at what his Warriors pulled off: a 2007 first-round playoff upset of the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks.

That lasting image might serve as his brightest moment during his two up-and-down stints as the Warriors coach, if not his 31-year NBA coaching career.

Nearly 31/2 years later, and shortly after becoming the NBA's all-time winningest coach this past spring, Nelson, 70, is done coaching the Warriors. His official departure is slated for Monday.

The long-suffering franchise is heading on without him as well as outgoing owner Chris Cohan, a tandem long rued by a frustrated fan base. A new regime beckons under Joe Lacob, and hopefully more electric moments will follow like that 2007 "WE BELIEVE" run.

Nelson's affiliation with the Warriors may not have been a bundle of joy. One spring fling in the 2007 playoffs did not define his legacy with them.

But he had his moments, his innovations, his thrilling victories and, yes, his lopsided defeats. That goes for his first Warriors coaching tenure from 1988-95, as well as this more demanding tour from 2006-10.

Both times, Nelson rescued a sagging franchise and turned it into a contender. Oh, things dramatically unraveled each time, and he shared in the blame. But he also partook in the occasional success story born from his coaching wit.

A man does not last as long as Nelson (31 seasons, starting in 1976 with the Milwaukee Bucks) if he does not know a thing or two. He kept sticking around, coaching overmatched teams and entertaining crowds with an up-tempo, net-swishing style.

No, he never won a championship as a coach. He'll make do with an impressive all-time wins record, plus a not-so-paltry five rings from his playing days with the Boston Celtics in the 1960s and '70s.

Nelson The Sequel did not have a true chance to break a Warriors title drought that stretches back to 1975. They still have not had an All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.

That is why a rare playoff run such as 2007's remains cherished. Nelson relished it every step of the way -- at least until the NBA banned him from bringing his beer to the postgame podium before the Utah series.

In his first Warriors coaching stint, Nelson flourished behind the "Run TMC" cast of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. When Nelson returned in 2006 -- at the behest of Mullin in the front office -- he inherited a team that looks, well, almost as bleak as it does today.

Nelson parlayed Baron Davis' point-guard skills and used key additions such as Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington to end the Warriors' 12-season playoff drought.

Nelson's Warriors then outfoxed the top-seeded Mavericks -- the first No. 8 seed to do so against a No. 1 in a best-of-seven series -- only to lose in the next round to the Utah Jazz.

He may never have been in a better mood than after the 111-86, series-clinching win over Dallas in Game 6 at Oracle Arena. At the time, he called that victory "probably the best I've ever had" as a coach. He regaled the media during the series with anecdotes about how he formulated his crafty game plans with a bottle of scotch and a cigar in a boiler room atop the roof at his Lake Merritt penthouse. His dog, Lucky, came along for the magical playoff ride, too.

Once that upset was complete, his players pulled him into their locker room victory dance. "They bump me around and forget I'm 66 years old," Nelson said afterward.

Funny thing is, when he first walked into the Warriors' locker room before the season started, he warned everyone his age would define his style. He called it "The 66 Rule," meaning, "I'm 66, and I don't give a (hoot)." He did not care about making enemies or crushing egos. He had a franchise to help resurrect. He had help along the way. But he was the respected face needed to ignite that turnaround, at least until he bequeathed that role to a bearded Davis.

Nelson's second stint carried a different vibe from his first. But Chris Webber was around for both, albeit briefly in 2008 so he and Nelson could mend fences from a 1994 feud that crippled the franchise.

Of course Nelson had conflicts with other players, perceived power plays with management and an insatiable desire for cold, hard cash.

He also had an unmatched personality. He could play the role of boss and bully. Or he could charm folks with colorful quotes and an aw-shucks attitude.

Passing Lenny Wilkens atop the all-time wins list was not a bad way to go out, and Nelson did so on April 7 at Minnesota. He celebrated his 1,333rd career victory by hopping on the court in a scrum with his players, several of whom are off the roster now.

He won twice more after that, the Warriors closing with a 26-56 record and Nelson exiting with a career regular-season mark of 1,335-1,063.

In the end, Nelson may not have had enormous success coaching the Warriors, but when he did, he made it count in a way everyone should appreciate.

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter.com/CamInman