One of the most respected minds in the NBA, Donnie Nelson is involved in every aspect of the Dallas Mavericks basketball operations. Nelson, who owns 22 years of NBA experience, came to Dallas on January 2, 1998 after three seasons as an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns.
He was instrumental in rebuilding a team that suffered a decade long playoff draught into a perennial playoff team and championship contender. During his tenure, the Mavericks have won 66% of their games with three 60+ win seasons, including a franchise record 67 win season in 2007 which tied for the sixth best regular season in NBA history. The Mavericks are also one of just six NBA franchises to win 60 games or more three times in a five year span. During his tenure, the Mavericks have also made the playoffs seven consecutive seasons, been to the Western Conference Finals twice, reached a franchise milestone in 2006 when they advanced to the NBA Finals, and won their first Division Title in 20 years in 2007.
On the current roster, Donnie Nelson has acquired players through key trades (Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier, Trenton Hassell), success in the NBA Draft (Devin Harris, All-Star Josh Howard and 2007 MVP Dirk Nowitzki), and free agency (Eddie Jones, Devean George, DeSagana Diop). On previous teams Nelson played a significant role in acquiring players such as two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-Star/Sixth Man of the Year Antawn Jamison.
Nelson successfully coached the Mavericks while his father and former head coach Don Nelson was recovering from cancer surgery in 2000-2001. Donnie led the team to a 15-8 record while serving as head coach. He was the top assistant to his father at Golden State, where he served the organization a total of eight seasons ('86-'94). Nelson was also a regional scout for the Milwaukee Bucks for two seasons ('84-'86).
Since 1990, Donnie has served as an assistant coach for the Lithuanian National Team. In that span, he has helped them win three bronze medals in four Olympiads, a silver medal in the 1995 European Championships and a gold medal in the 2003 European Championships. In appreciation for his contributions, Nelson was awarded the Grand Cross of the Commander by the President of Lithuania in 2004. He also serves as Honorary Ambassador for the League of Industries.
In 1994, Nelson proudly served as a scout for USA Basketball at the World Championships in Toronto. Dream Team II went undefeated on their way to capturing a gold medal that year.
Nelson’s tireless efforts helped crack two walls that once seemed unbreakable. He was responsible for signing the first player from both the Soviet Union (Sarunas Marciulionis) and China Wang Zhizhi to NBA contracts. In addition, Nelson holds the honor of being the only American coach to participate in a Soviet National training camp. On June 24, 1998, Nelson engineered a deal that brought a relatively unknown German and an unheralded Canadian to Dallas. Both Dirk Nowitzki (2007) and Steve Nash (2005, 2006) would go on to be named the NBA's Most Valuable Player, giving the Mavericks the distinction of being the only team in history to acquire two future MVP's in the same transaction. “Donnie has been my biggest supporter from day one,” said six-time NBA All-Star and 2007 MVP Dirk Nowitzki. “He works harder than any coach or president in the NBA. He thinks about basketball 24 hours a day.”
Nelson also serves as the Chief Advisor for the Chinese National Basketball Team. During his three years of service, they equaled their all-time best Olympic finish (8th) in Athens and won the Gold Medal at the 2005 Asian Championships. He is currently working with the Chinese Basketball Association in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Nelson’s first exposure to the continent of Africa took place in 1992. He has conducted clinics in North Africa, Senegal, Nigeria and South Africa. Nelson is especially proud to be associated with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program in Africa. This outreach program provides educational opportunities to challenged African athletes.
Nelson is the founder of the “Global Games” in Dallas , which gives area high school kids a chance to test themselves against the top Junior National Teams in the world. The games completed their eighth season this past summer.
In December 2002, Donnie Nelson's heart for disadvantaged youth led to the creation of the Assist Youth Foundation which has since combined with the charity organization known as Heroes. The foundation's goal is to advance opportunities for underprivileged kids in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and across the globe.
A 1986 graduate of Wheaton (Ill.) College, Nelson was inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor on October 3, 1997. He led Wheaton in scoring and was an NABC All-Midwest selection.