Warriors coach steps down

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 2:39 PM ET

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Golden State Warriors announced Monday Don Nelson has relinquished his head coaching duties and assistant Keith Smart has been elevated to head coach.

The 70-year-old Nelson is the NBA's all-time wins leader as a head coach. Over 31 seasons, including the last four with Golden State, he has compiled a 1,335-1,063 record.

But the Warriors were a disappointing 26-56 last season, finishing with the third worst record in the Western Conference while running its notorious up- tempo, high-scoring brand of basketball. Nelson had a year and $6 million remaining on his contract.

"In regard to Nellie, we simply felt it was the right time to make a change. He's been a terrific coach for over three decades and has left a lasting legacy in this league as the winningest coach in the history of the NBA," remarked general manager Larry Riley in making the announcement.

Smart served as an assistant coach with the club for the past seven seasons and becomes the 23rd head coach in franchise history. Prior to his joining the Warriors for the 2003-04 season, Smart spent three seasons as an assistant in Cleveland, concluding his tenure there as interim head coach for the final 40 games of the 2002-03 campaign. The Cavs went 9-31 under his guidance.

"We feel that Keith Smart is ready for this challenge as we embark on a new season," Riley said. "He has a wealth of experience as a player and coach in this game and has been fortunate to be around some of the best minds in the business, including Don Nelson at the NBA level and Bobby Knight in college. He's an outstanding communicator, has a vast knowledge of the game and I'm confident that he is the right person for the job. Additionally, he has previous head coaching experience in the NBA, including several games during Nellie's absence last season, and in the CBA."

The 46-year-old Smart, who gained college fame when his jumper gave Indiana a heart-stopping win over Syracuse in the national title game in 1987, has experienced 11 seasons as an NBA assistant with 21 years in professional basketball as either a player or coach.

Golden State also announced additions to Smart's coaching staff, naming Jerry Sichting and Robert Werdann assistant coaches, and Mark Price shooting coach, while elevating Calbert Cheaney to an assistant coaching position. The group will join returning assistant coach Stephen Silas.

Smart previously served as head coach for the Fort Wayne Fury of the CBA, and during his three-year stint, had a CBA-high 21 players signed to NBA contracts. His playing career included six seasons in the CBA, two seasons in France and one in Venezuela. He also had a brief stint in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs during the 1988-89 season.

Smart's hiring is the first big front office move for the Warriors under their new ownership group, led by Joseph Lacob.


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