WHAT, JOHN WOODEN wasn't available? That's right, Chris Mullin, told us in April that Mike Montgomery was going to coach the Warriors this coming season — or at least answered, "Yeah," when asked — then ran him out the swinging door and brought in old Nellie for another reclamation project.

What in blazes is going on here, or should we say there, meaning Confusion Central down in Warriors land?

"Something's not right," Mike Dunleavy told us in springtime about the Little Franchise That Hasn't. "We'll see what happens this summer."

We've seen. Kaboom. The great teacher, Mr. Montgomery, hired to instruct the young Warriors how to pass and play defense. Instead was taught the basic lesson of all pro sports, NBA ball included: We don't need you when Baron Davis is running the team, even if he can't run the court.

It is certainly bizarre and weird to disinter Don Nelson, but this is the bizarre and weird Bay Area.

Art Shell, out of the past. Jeff George, out of the past. Don Nelson, out of the past. And if you don't think Barry Bonds isn't coming back to Giants — barring a few (heh, heh) legal troubles — then you don't know Nostalgiaville.

The biggest thing for the 49ers has been retiring Jerry Rice's number. The Giants practically creak with every step.

That clich about not being able to go home again, be forewarned, also is a

truism. Joe Gibbs hasn't done beans with the Washington Redskins the second time around. Even the gray-haired genius, Bill Walsh esq., was a semiflop in his return to Stanford. So what do you think Nellie is going to accomplish on this repeat with the Warriors?

One of the essentials in team sport is stability. The Warriors change partners about every 10 seconds, or it seems that way. Montgomery, Eric Musselman, Brian Winters, Dave Cowens, Garry St. Jean all coming and going as coaches since 2000. It's too bad the NBA doesn't have a Frequent Firing Award.

Monty departs with a cool $5 million from owner Chris Cohan on the unpaid contract and the realization pro players don't listen even when they aren't wearing Bose noise-canceling headphones.

What doesn't make much sense is why Mullin, the general manager, waited until almost September to make these moves. Or was this the work of Mr. Cohan? If you're going to perform a coaching switch, wouldn't you want to do it before the draft not after? And stepping back some 24 months, who really wanted Montgomery as Warriors coach, Mullin or Cohan?

Cohan apparently wanted Nelson, but what does Nellie want? Did he get bored hanging out in Maui? Did Don believe that since Pat Riley, whom Nelson once replaced on the Knicks, could win an NBA title at Miami, then he also needed to win one somewhere? Anywhere?

We are aware the Warriors haven't made the playoffs since 1994 when Nelson was coach and Mullin, and Chris Webber, were players. Webber didn't like Nellie's discipline, and the next season both were gone. The W's came in with a 26-56 record, and the downward spiral was well under way.

Nelson invariably became someone who wanted to be where he wasn't and didn't want to be where he was. Having neatly worked himself into an untenable position the start of the'94-95 season (like a 14-41 record), Nelson departed, only to surface again in New York. Then it was Dallas, where he also became GM and eventually turned over the coaching job to Avery Johnson.

So, it's back to the ... well, if this is the future, you have to be worried about what lies ahead. Nelson likes his players to push the ball up the court. We recall the romantic days of Run TMC. These Warriors have only been able to push up long jump shots.

Montgomery may not have been able to live up to that great expectation for new coaches, turning the thing around, but he knew what was wrong. In 12 years, nobody yet has been able to make it right.

Art Spander has earned a spot in the

Pro Football Hall of Fame. He can be

reached at typoes@aol.com.