Ball Don't Lie

Don Nelson’s post-basketball life on Maui sounds amazing

Dan Devine
Ball Don't Lie

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Real recognize real. (AP)

One of the great things about the approach of annual inductions into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., is the increased attention paid to those about to be enshrined — if you haven't already, you're about to start seeing more and more columns and features about the likes of Reggie Miller, Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes and the rest of this year's honorees, which will invariably lead to some great stories.

And because we've all been good little boys and girls, leading the gods to smile warmly on us, this year's class also includes Don Nelson — the winningest coach in NBA history, the sideline philosopher whose dedication to exploding traditional offensive concepts led to some of the greatest advancements in hoops theory (and most entertaining play in on-court practice) of the past several decades, and perennially one of the most boisterous and quotable figures in the basketball world. With Nelson heading into the Hall next week, a group of reporters recently checked in with him. And Nellie's Hawaiian life sounds awesome.

[The Nets' new $1 billion arena is already completely covered in rust, by design]

From Mark Emmons of the San Jose Mercury News:

He owns rental cottages and other buildings on Maui. [...] He has broken ground on a 4,000-square foot hall for receptions after wedding ceremonies are held on his beach.

He has a 22-acre farm where he grows koa and olive trees, flowers and coffee beans, which he turns into "Nellie's Coffee" brew.

"We put it in a contest with 19 entries and finished fourth," Nelson said. "So we make the fourth-best coffee on Maui." [...]

And when he's not thinking about business — did we mention the dog food he's test-marketing? — is hanging out with a close circle of pals that include country singer Willie Nelson and actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. They play poker about three times a week when they're all in Maui.

"It's a wonderful life," he said.

So, to recap:

• Nelson has become one of the premier entrepreneurs on the second largest of Hawaii's islands;

• One of his primary business interests at the moment involves selling Hawaiian shave ice in a shop he just bought with his wife Joy: "You shave the ice, put some juice on it and then sell it for four bucks. It's 95 percent profit";

• He makes his own coffee and dog food;

• He hangs out with Willie Nelson, Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson, who — even before reading this — you probably would have identified as three of the Most Don Nelson Celebrities in existence;

• Again: He's doing all this, like, here;

[Top draft pick Anthony Davis has set some pretty big goals for his rookie season]

• And while all this stuff was true a year ago, now he's also a Hall of Famer, which you have to imagine is a branding opportunity that will in some way work its way into the coffee or dog food (although it probably shouldn't appear in both).

Nelson — whose 1,335 career wins are three more than longtime peer Lenny Wilkens (whom Nellie praises for his sideline demeanor) and 114 more than Utah Jazz legend Jerry Sloan — was clear in his chat with Emmons and Janie McCauley of The Associated Press that he has no designs on making a comeback to the NBA ranks at the age of 72, after spending 45 years as a player, coach and executive. From the AP:

''I've had one of those very special lives, really, I've been in the NBA since I was 22,'' he said. '[...] You have a lot of ups and downs in coaching, especially, but I can't remember any bad times at this point. I mean, they're all good. A lot of tears when you lose, a lot of down times, but I can't remember any of them. They're all positive now. Even the bad times were good. One of those storybook lives, really.''

And it's capped by a happily-after-ever in which he drops a full boat on Billy Hoyle while puffing a cigar on a sandy beach. Well played, Coach. We should all be so lucky.

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