With the Warriors getting a new owner and a new-look team, the question most of the team's fans want answered is what to do with coach Don Nelson. Do the Warriors change coaches now, or allow the NBA's all-time winningest coach finish out the one year left on his contract?
Right now, the odds seem to favor Nelson staying, unless the new ownership chooses the man who sits next to Nelson on the Warriors' bench, assistant coach Keith Smart. New co-owner Joe Lacob, who said he'll be the CEO of the franchise, wouldn't hint which way he's leaning but said he is considering all options.
"I'm going to go in there, I'm going to meet all the people. I'm going to evaluate what I see, then I'm going to make informed decisions," Lacob said.
Making things difficult is the timing. The sale wasn't announced until July 15. By then, all the head coaching vacancies in the league were filled. And now, almost three weeks later, Lacob said he and co-owner Peter Guber are working to solidify the group of minority investors they will bring aboard.
Lacob said he expects the sale to be finalized in late September, which is shortly before training camp starts. The coaching staff usually begins preparing weeks before, so when the ownership change finally is official, the staff already will be ready to go with a system orchestrated by Nelson.
That improves the chances of Nelson finishing out his contract, for which he will be paid $6 million.
Coaching candidates who might be available include those with little or no experience such as Brian Shaw and Mark Jackson, relatively unaccomplished prospects such as Terry Porter and Dwayne Casey, or coaches who would have to be pulled out of retirement such as Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Fratello.
Lacob says he wants a relatively young coach. Finding that person might take some time. Plus, Lacob might prefer first to hire a front office executive to help pick the right coach.
Therefore, Nelson might be the answer for this season. He's under contract, and a few players, who want to remain anonymous, said they preferred Nelson over bringing in a quick-fix coach.
A case could be made that keeping Nelson around is a bad idea. A lame-duck coach is usually undesirable. And last season people were questioning Nelson's passion and interest.
"The real question is when we begin the future," Lacob said, "and whether Nelson is the right guy to have as our coach in the meantime. We will have to make that decision."
According to a couple insiders, one option being kicked around is Smart.
The 45-year-old Smart has been an assistant coach with the Warriors for six seasons, and he once was billed as the heir apparent to Nelson. He would allow the new owners to start the post-Nelson era now instead of later. He knows the current system, which would ease the transition. It would buy the ownership time while finding out if Smart is the right guy.
Smart isn't the biggest name in the mix. But the timing and circumstance might lend to this being the time for him to get the opportunity many think he deserves.