Earlier this season, the NBA announced its 75th Anniversary Team. Among the 75 players honored were several former Milwaukee Bucks players. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ray Allen, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nate Archibald, Dave Cowens, Moses Malone, Gary Payton, and Oscar Robertson were all former Bucks players who were honored. On Tuesday evening, the NBA also announced its Top 15 Coaches List. Former Milwaukee Bucks head coach Don Nelson was honored on this list along with greats Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, and Pat Riley. Larry Brown, Erik Spolstra, Lenny Wilkens, Chuck Daly, Red Holzman, K.C. Jones, Jack Ramsay, Doc Rivers, and Jerry Sloan rounded out the list.
Don Nelson (1977-1987) held a 540-344 record in the 11 years he coached the Bucks.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) February 9, 2022
Don Nelson as the Bucks Head Coach
Don Nelson became the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks 1976. In nearly 11 full seasons, Nelson guided the Bucks to the playoffs nine times. Three times he led Milwaukee to the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, the Bucks lost all three Conference Finals series in which they played. They fell 4-1 to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1982-83, 4-1 to the Boston Celtics in 1983-84, and 4-0 to the Celtics in 1985-86.
As the Milwaukee Bucks tweeted, Don Nelson finished his time in Milwaukee with a record of 540-344 in the regular season. This is easily his best record with any of the teams he coached throughout this career. His .611 regular season winning percentage in Milwaukee is the second best in franchise history. Only Mike Budenholzer, the current Bucks coach, has a better regular season winning percentage. Unfortunately, his postseason winning percentage with Milwaukee was just .477. Despite all their regular season success, the Bucks never won a championship under Nelson.
During his time as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, Don Nelson won Coach of the Year twice. His first win came in 1982-83 when the Bucks went 51-31 and lost to the Celtics in the Conference Finals. Nelson’s second win came in 1984-85 when the Bucks went 59-23. Milwaukee lost to the 76ers in the Conference Semi-Finals that year.
Don Nelson’s Career After Milwaukee
Don Nelson resigned as the Bucks head coach after the 1986-87 season. After ending his Bucks tenure with seven consecutive 50-win seasons, Nelson had just six more in 20 seasons as a head coach. Nelson coached the Golden State Warriors for 11 seasons in two separate tenures with the organization. He coached the Warriors from 1988-1995 and 2006-2010. During the 1995-96 season, Nelson spent the year as the head coach of the New York Knicks. From 1997-2005, Nelson was the head coach of the Dallas Mavericks.
In 1991-92, Nelson won his third and final Coach of the Year Award. In 1996-97, he was named as one of the Top 10 coaches in NBA history. Don Nelson was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach in 2012.
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