Nelson Earns HOF Nod

April 2, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Former University of Iowa basketball player Don Nelson is part of a 12-member class that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 7. The 2012 class was announced Monday in New Orleans, the site of the Final Four.

Nelson, the all-time winningest coach in NBA history, left the University of Iowa after the 1962 season as the school’s all-time leading scorer. He scored 1,522 points from 1959-1962 before collecting 1,335 NBA victories in his 31 seasons on the NBA sidelines.

He was named NBA Coach of the Year three times and was a member of five NBA Championships as a player. He remains No. 11 on the UI career scoring charts. Nelson’s Hall of Fame class includes five-time All-Star Reggie Miller, two-time Olympic gold medalist Katrina McClain, three-time college player of the year Ralph Sampson, four-time NBA champion Jamaal Wilkes, longtime referee Hank Nichols, the All-American Red Heads — the female version of the Harlem Globetrotters, Nike co-founder Phil Knight, ABA star Mel Daniels, seven-time NBA All-Star Chet Walker, Olympian Don Barksdale, and Lydija Alexeeva, who led the Soviet Union to two Olympic gold medals.

Playing for head coach Sharm Scheuerman, Nelson led the Hawkeyes to a 14-10 record in 1959-60 and followed that with an 18-6 mark in 1960-61. During Nelson’s senior season (1961-62), Iowa posted its third consecutive winning season at 13-11.

Nelson was born in Muskegon, MI, and moved to Rock Island, IL, where he had a successful high school playing career. He was a two-time All-American at the UI and was drafted by the Chicago Zephyrs with the first pick of the third round in the 1962 NBA Draft. He also played for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. It was with the Celtics where Nelson was part of five NBA champion teams: 1966, ’68, ’69, ’74 and ’76. His jersey No. 19 was retired by Boston in 1978 (Nelson wore No. 15 with the Hawkeyes).

Nelson’s first head coaching job in the NBA was with the Bucks in 1976. He coached there for 11 seasons (nine winning seasons, 43 playoff victories) before joining Golden State for the 1988-89 season. The Warriors made the playoffs four times from 1989-94. Nelson coached one season with the New York Knicks, but he resigned after 59 games (and 34 wins). From 1997-2005 Nelson was on the bench in Dallas before resigning during the 2004-05 season while the Mavericks had a record of 42-22. He began his second shift with Golden State in 2006.

With Nelson as head coach, the Bucks won seven straight Midwest/Central Division championships from 1979-86. The Mavericks won the Midwest Division in 2002-03. Nelson coached Milwaukee in three conference finals and Dallas in one. In 2003, Nelson and the Mavericks were ousted by eventual champion San Antonio, 4-2.

Nelson still holds the UI record with 21 free throw attempts against Indiana on Feb. 17, 1962. His career-high in points was 39 against Wisconsin in 1962. During his final two seasons, Nelson led the Hawkeyes in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.