Assist, Nellie

Transformation started by Mavs' Godfather finally finished

Apparently those signature strategies, the ultimate success and perhaps a couple celebratory beers are enough for Nelson to mask any bittersweet aftertaste generated by the realization that, in the end, your old team is better off without you. After winning five titles as a player with the Boston Celtics, Nelson spent almost four decades fruitlessly chasing a spot in the NBA Finals as a coach and GM.

"Are you kidding?" Nelson says of a possible tinge of disappointment. "I'm nothing but proud, nothing but happy. It's wonderful."

Nelson's Hall of Fame résumé--highlighted by the second-most coaching victories and three Coach of the Year Awards--will still technically show a championship void. But we know, and he knows, he deserves an assist for this Mavericks' title.

"Keep the focus on the team and the players," says Nelson, who'll be back in time to watch Thursday's Game 4 from a bar stool at Nellie's. "Keep me out of it. I don't want any credit."

Maybe we can talk him into a picture with the trophy instead.

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