Donn Charles "Donnie" Nelson (born September 10, 1962 in Des Moines, Iowa) is the General Manager and president of basketball operations for the Dallas Mavericks of National Basketball Association. He is the son of Don Nelson, the former head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks. In a 2007 Sports Illustrated article ranking the NBA's personnel bosses from 1 to 30, Nelson was ranked No. 2. Additionally, in a 2009 Yahoo! Sports article Nelson was ranked the 3rd best General Manager of the decade after producing nine 50-plus win seasons in a row and the first Finals appearance in franchise history in 2006. Nelson assembled the Mavericks team that would later win the 2011 NBA Championship.
Work with the Mavericks
Donnie Nelson is involved in every aspect of the Mavericks basketball operations. Nelson, who has 23 years of NBA experience, came to Dallas on January 2, 1998 after three seasons as an assistant coach with Phoenix. Donnie was the assistant coach for the Mavericks when Mark Cuban purchased the team in January 2000.
Donnie Nelson has been instrumental in rebuilding a team that suffered a decade-long playoff drought into an NBA Champion. During his tenure, the Mavericks have won 66% of their games, including five 50-win seasons, two 60-wins seasons, and a franchise record 67-wins season in 2007. The 67-wins season was tied for the sixth-best regular season in NBA history. The Mavericks are also one of just six franchises to win 60 games or more three times in a five year span. In all, the Mavericks have won 50 or more games for ten consecutive years. As a result, under Nelson, the Mavericks have also made the playoffs ten consecutive seasons, been to the Western Conference Finals three times, advanced to the NBA Finals twice, and the franchise won their first NBA Championship in 2011.
Nelson has acquired the core group of players on the current Mavs roster through trades and success in the NBA Draft. Tyson Chandler, 2008-2009 6th Man of the Year Jason Terry, future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd, 4-time All-Star Shawn Marion, 2-time All-Star Caron Butler, and Brendan Haywood were acquired through key trades. Nelson was also responsible for adding 2007 MVP, 2011 NBA Finals MVP, and 10-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki along with sophomore sensation Rodrigue Beaubois through the NBA Draft. On previous teams Nelson played a significant role in trading for players such as two-time Most Valuable Player Steve Nash and All-Star/6th Man of the Year Antawn Jamison, as well as acquiring future All-Stars Devin Harris and Josh Howard via the NBA Draft.
Nelson also coached the Mavericks while his father and former head coach Don Nelson missed time. While the elder Nelson was recovering from cancer surgery in 2000-01, Donnie led the team to a 13-8 record. In 2001-02, he was 2-0 as the head coach. He was the top assistant to his father at Golden State, where he served the organization a total of eight seasons ('86-'94). Nelson was also a regional scout for the Milwaukee Bucks for two seasons ('84-'86).
Since 1990, Donnie has served as an assistant coach for the Lithuania national basketball team. In that span, he has helped them win three bronze medals in four Olympiads, a silver medal in the 1995 European Championships and a gold medal in the 2003 European Championships. In appreciation for his contributions, Nelson was awarded the Medal of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas in 1995 and the Commander's Grand Crosses of the Order for Merits to Lithuania by the President of Lithuania in 2004. He also serves as Honorary Ambassador for the League of Industries. He got involved with the Lithuanians through his friend Šarūnas Marčiulionis, who he helped bring to the NBA in 1989, three years after Marčiulionis was drafted by the Golden State Warriors (then coached by Don Nelson). In 1991, as Lithuania had just been re-estabilished as an independent state, the Lithuanian Basketball Federation could not rely on public funding. Knowing of Marčiulionis' struggles, Nelson helped get sponsors for the Lithuanian team's 1992 Summer Olympics campaign, which included rock band Grateful Dead.
Nelson also serves as the Chief Advisor for the China national basketball team. During his two years of service, they equaled their all-time best Olympic finish (8th) in Athens and won the Gold Medal at the 2005 Asian Championships.
Nelson's tireless efforts helped crack two walls that once seemed unbreakable. Nelson was responsible for signing the first player from both the Soviet Union (Šarūnas Marčiulionis) and China (Wang Zhizhi) to NBA contracts. In addition, Nelson holds the honor of being the only American coach to participate in a Soviet National training camp. On June 24, 1998 Nelson engineered a deal that brought a relatively unknown German and an unheralded Canadian to Dallas. Both Dirk Nowitzki (2007) and Steve Nash (2005, 2006) would go on to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player. Nowitzki called Nelson his "biggest supporter from day one. He works harder than any coach or president in the NBA. He thinks about basketball 24 hours a day."
Also for the past two years, Nelson has worked with the NBA’s African Top 100 campaign. This outreach program provides educational opportunities to challenged African athletes.
Nelson is the founder of the "Global Games" in Dallas, which gives area high school kids a chance to test themselves against the top Junior National teams in the world. The games completed their eighth season this summer.
In December 2002, Nelson helped create the Assist Youth Foundation. The foundation's goal is to advance opportunities for underprivileged kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and across the globe.
Nelson is also the co-owner of a new National Basketball Association Developmental League (D-League) team that will be located in Frisco, Texas, a suburb north of Dallas. On November 5, 2009, Nelson and the Frisco team made history by hiring Nancy Lieberman to be their first head coach. She was the first full-time female head coach to lead a NBDL team. The Texas Legends began play in the 2010-11 season.
- Ranking the league's personnel bosses from 1-30, published June 26, 2007
- "'NBA Development League: Owners' Bios'". Retrieved Oct 22, 2012.
- Donnie Nelson honored in Lithuania.
- New World Order
- Jenkins: Marciulionis’ Impact Goes Beyond Basketball
|Current heads of basketball operations in the National Basketball Association|
|Note: Those listed here either hold the title President of Basketball Operations or General Manager, or both.|