NBA Draft 2002
  Draft Order
  Team Needs
  Top Prospects
Message Board
NBA en espanol

ESPN Auctions
Monday, July 1
Updated: July 3, 5:08 PM ET
Donnie Nelson now to be president of basketball operations

Associated Press

FRISCO, Texas -- Donnie Nelson won't consider his life a failure if he never becomes an NBA coach. He's more interested in helping his father win his first championship as a coach, and in being part of the reason for it.

Don Nelson
Donnie Nelson, left, shakes hands with his father Don Nelson, although both might be unsure of who's really the boss.

So after interviewing for the coaching vacancy in Denver, Nelson dropped out of consideration Monday and instead accepted an offer to become the president of basketball operations for the Dallas Mavericks.

Nelson already was an assistant coach and director of player personnel in Dallas. The new title has no new duties, but gives him the authority to take ideas directly to owner Mark Cuban instead of having to go through his father, coach-general manager Don Nelson.

''Are you my boss now?'' said Don Nelson, who tried buttering up his son just in case by apologizing for ever having spanked Donnie.

Donnie, 39, has spent 18 season in the NBA, mostly working for his father. They've been together in Dallas throughout the team's turnaround from one of the worst in the league to one of the best.

The younger Nelson long ago erased any notions of nepotism, making his mark primarily through scouting and recruiting foreign players. His work overseas can certainly be considered groundbreaking, especially in light of the international tilt to the draft last week.

Nelson also knows Xs and Os. He went 15-8 as interim coach the past two seasons.

Kiki Vandeweghe worked with Donnie Nelson in Dallas before becoming Denver's GM. He put Nelson on the short list of candidates in his first coaching search.

They met for six hours Friday. When Donnie Nelson returned, he was stunned to see his father quoted as saying he was willing to step down and give the Mavs coaching job to his son if that's what it took to keep him.

He went to dinner at his father's house to talk things out. Cuban got involved, too, e-mailing him proposals on stepping up his role in the organization.

''The whole thing was about keeping the braintrust together,'' Cuban said.

They finally nailed it Monday afternoon, then quickly called a news conference at Stonebriar Country Club, where much of the team was gathered for Michael Finley's charity golf tournament.

''It's pretty appropriate to be announcing this during a Make-a-Wish event because this truly is a dream come true for me,'' Donnie Nelson said. ''I've been dreaming about this since I was shagging balls with the Celtics when my dad was playing. My ultimate dream was to win a ring with him and I think that in the next couple of years we'll be in position to do that.''

The deal was done on a handshake and has no expiration date. There's also no secret plan to make Donnie Nelson the successor to his father, who has one season left on his coaching contract but several more as GM.

Donnie Nelson will be involved in naming the next coach, whenever that is, and will put his name on the candidates list ''only if it makes sense for me to be on it.''

He's not sure whether he'll remain on the bench or concentrate more on front-office duties. The flexibility excites him, and reminds him of the do-it-all role Cotton Fitzsimmons had in Phoenix when Nelson was an assistant there.

''I'm a great utility guy, a troubleshooter,'' he said.

 More from ESPN...
Donn Nelson doesn't want Mavs post at dad's expense
Current coach Don Nelson and ...

Nelson would retire to keep son in Dallas
Don Nelson would be willing ...

Mavericks president Donnie Nelson has found basketball "utopia" in Dallas.

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story