It's not like Warriors coach Don Nelson needs a reason to go lounge in Maui, puffing on cigars and punching divots at some of the world's most scenic golf courses. Such is routine for him, since he lives there.
But the Hawaiian lifestyle had to get even sweeter on Thursday. That's when he learned that his legal battles with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had come to an end. One year after his Warriors knocked Cuban's Mavericks out of the NBA playoffs, Nelson beat his rival in court.
A Dallas arbitrator, Glen Ashworth, ruled in favor of Nelson, awarding him $6.28 million plus court fees and lawyer costs. The capper for Nellie — the part that makes the hammock he's rocking on in Hawaii a bit more comfortable — is the arbitrator's judgment that Nelson is now entitled to all of the deferred money up front. Nelson wasn't scheduled to be paid in full until 2012.
"It's not so much a legal defeat for Cuban as it is an old-fashion (butt) whipping," Nelson's attorney John O'Connor gloated. "Cuban's lawyers did a great job of trying to disguise their pig with lipstick and jewelry. But, unfortunately for them, it kept oinking."
A little background. In July 2003, Nelson was given a three-year extension as head coach of the Mavericks. The agreement also called for Nelson to serve as a consultant for five years after his coaching term at $200,000 per year.
But Nelson's relationship with Cuban had deteriorated by the summer of 2006, and on August 30, 2006 Nelson accepted the post as the Warriors head coach — taking his feud with the Mavericks organization to new heights.
According to the judge's opinion, obtained by Bay Area News Group, the Mavericks stopped paying installments to Nelson on the $6.6 million in deferred money they owed him (most of which was agreed to before Cuban bought the Mavericks in 2000). They also didn't pay him for the consulting job.
In May of 2007, Nelson sued the Mavericks for $6.475 million in deferred payments he was due. The Mavericks counter sued in June 2007, claiming that Nelson breached the contract by taking the Warriors job, and that Nelson violated a confidentiality agreement by taking private information about the Mavericks with him to Golden State (which helped the Warriors beat Dallas in the first round of the playoffs).
After arbitration hearings in Dallas late last month, Ashworth ruled in favor of Nelson on every front. He concluded that Nelson earned the deferred money during his tenure as head coach, which means his taking the Warriors job was not a breach of the contract. He found that the Mavericks committed the breach by not making the scheduled payments to Nelson, which legally released Nelson from his consulting obligations and freed him up to take the Warriors gig. The judge also concluded that Nelson did not violate his confidentiality agreement.
This $6 million-plus award will be in addition to the $5 million-plus he is set to earn from the Warriors this season. You can imagine how unfazed he might be after a three-putt.
Neither Nelson nor Cuban could be reached for comment.
Contact Marcus Thompson II at email@example.com.