Oakland sports teams are much more sentimental than I ever imagined.
I looked at the papers this morning to find out that Jeff George, who didnâ€™t leave the Raiders on the best of terms, had returned as a possible backup quarterback for his old team and its new old coach Art Shell. At various times, the Aâ€™s have arranged for swan songs for Jose Canseco, Reggie Jackson, and Rickey Henderson, though Rickey forgot to retire. Some time in the future, I imagine weâ€™ll see the return of the Giambi brothers to the Green and Gold.
Now the big story is that after 12 years out of the playoffs, the Warriors have brought Don Nelson back to coach the team. Iâ€™m waiting to hear about their deals to sign Chris Webber and Latrell Sprewell some time later this week.
Chris Cohan, the Warriors owner, not only fired Nelson 12 years ago, he sued him for taking another job as head coach of the Knicks. Heâ€™s now paying the 66-year-old coach $6 million a year over the next three years. Yes, youâ€™re right. Thatâ€™s three sixes in succession.
For those who donâ€™t remember the story, Nelson has a long history of being a coach who takes teams from nothing to contention but canâ€™t get them to the finals. He managed this in Milwaukee, Dallas, and at Golden State.
With Run-TMC (Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin), Nelson was all set to make the jump from playoff team to championship contender with the addition of Chris Webber. Webber preferred to play power forward so Nelson traded for a true center, Rony Seikaly, by giving up one of Webberâ€™s best friends on the team Billy Owens. Webberâ€™s complaints about Nelsonâ€™s â€śnegativeâ€ť coaching style grew more vocal and Cohan decided to keep the coach instead of the budding star in one of these "he goes or I go" situations. A few months and a sudden loss of chemistry later, both star and coach were gone. Bottom line, "he goes or I go" turned out to be Donyell Marshall. A year or two later, Latrell Sprewell was choking his coach. The Warriors have not had a winning team since.
Psychologists sometimes encourage traumatized patients to â€śreliveâ€ť the incident and work through it again. Perhaps this is what Cohanâ€™s up to. Heâ€™s tried eight different coaches since Nelson and the team still plays as if they're jinxed. Nelson may be the only person on earth who has the counter-spell.