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Mavericks coach Nelson resigns
Updated: 2005-03-20 09:17

Don Nelson resigned as coach of the Dallas Mavericks, perhaps ending the career of the second-winningest coach in National Basketball Association history.

Don Nelson, seen here in 2004, resigned as coach of the Dallas Mavericks, perhaps ending the career of the second-winningest coach in National Basketball Association history. [AFP]

The Mavericks, who host the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, made the announcement official during a news conference at the American Airlines Center.

First-year assistant Avery Johnson was named the replacement for Nelson, who will remain with the team as a consultant.

In his eighth season with the Mavericks, the 64-year-old Nelson has won 1,190 games and trails only Lenny Wilkens on the NBA's all-time coaches list.

But Nelson has endured a difficult year marked by personal issues. He recently missed three games to spend time with his wife, Joy, who is recovering from surgery, and also sat out 10 games following shoulder surgery in January.

"This is not a retirement," Nelson said. "I am just looking forward to my role as a consultant. This was my decision, and I think it's the best decision for the organization. I have enjoyed every second of my eight years with this organization, and I believe this is the right time for a change."

Johnson, who has been groomed as Nelson's successor, guided the Mavericks to a 7-3 record during Nelson's absence in January and won two of three games last week. He also has conducted most of the team's practices this season.

Johnson, who retired as a player prior to the start of this season, played 1,054 career games, averaging 8.4 points, 5.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds. He was a member of the San Antonio Spurs' 1999 NBA championship team.

With the dismissal of Minnesota's Flip Saunders earlier this season, Nelson had been the NBA's third longest-tenured coach behind Utah's Jerry Sloan and San Antonio's Gregg Popovich.

Taking over for Jim Cleamons early in the 1997-98 season, Nelson transformed Dallas into a power in the Western Conference. In 2002-03, he led the Mavericks to a franchise-record 60 wins and an appearance in the conference finals for only the second time in team history.

While he never got to the NBA Finals, Nelson turned the Mavericks into perennial 50-game winners as the team has averaged 55 victories the last four seasons.

Nelson also coached the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors and owns a career mark of 1,190-880 (.575). He and Pat Riley are the only coaches to earn NBA Coach of the Year honors three times.

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