November 07, 2011
With early entry almost a prerequisite these days for a long-lasting NBA career, many players have used the lockout as an opportunity to return to school and finish up their bachelor's degrees. It's an honorable pursuit that should be commended, especially as the lockout foregrounds the need for players to understand issues beyond how to split a double team.
As far as I know, NBA lifers with a combined 45 years of coaching and playing experience don't usually head back to campus for their diplomas. But that's exactly what Don Nelson, the league's all-time wins leader, will do this spring at the University of Iowa. From SportsBusiness Daily (via PBT):
Former NBA coach Don Nelson will graduate from college "almost 50 years after being" drafted in the '62 NBA Draft. Nelson "plans to go through the University of Iowa commencement service in the spring of 2012, having fulfilled the necessary credits for his bachelor's degree."
Nelson fulfilled his graduation requirements long ago, but he somehow hadn't returned to campus to walk since. He's been unemployed several times, too, so it would have taken much effort to take a trip to Iowa City for a day some random spring day. Of course, not everyone lives in Hawaii, which seems a little less worth leaving than any other state in the union. Maybe Nellie played this one correctly.
Nevertheless, it's a surprising move for a man whose entire coaching career has been predicated on outside-the-box thinking. A decent number of people embrace education at 71 years old, but not many randomly decide to walk during graduation years after finishing up their classes. That's especially true of a two-time All-America campus legend. If I had that status, I'd walk during every graduation until they told me to stop.
Nelson also brings good news for every graduating Hawkeye, because you know he's going to throw one hell of a celebration party. Plus, he'll finally be around the only other people who drink Bud Light with regularity.