Warriors swingman Reggie Williams woke up from his nap at 6 p.m. Thursday to a phone going off relentlessly. He logged on to Twitter and saw the news about coach Don Nelson being replaced assistant Keith Smart. He still hasn't recovered.
"It's crazy to me," Williams said. "I came in under Nelson. I just don't know what to say. It hit me by surprise. I'm just so happy to be a part of (Nelson's all-time NBA wins record)."
Incoming co-owner Joseph Lacob confirmed Nelson's ouster as coach Thursday night, but a formal announcement isn't expected until Monday.
The news still is resonating among the players, past and present. Some expressed shock the Warriors got rid of Nelson, who had one year left on his contract for $6 million. Others are elated that Smart gets a shot.
All of the players contacted said they were not told of the move beforehand, but some said they could see the end of the Nellie era coming. During the offseason, the Warriors added a few defensive-minded players -- swingman Dorrell Wright, guard Charlie Bell, even rookie shot blocker Ekpe Udoh -- which signaled a change from Nelson's offense-heavy philosophy.
"Keith Smart is definitely defensive-minded," point guard Stephen Curry said. "I know a lot of teams preach defense in the offseason, especially teams coming off a bad season. But (defense) will probably play a little bigger role now."
Though the Warriors' lost the league's all-time winningest coach,
"It's not like there's a brand new coach coming in," Williams said. "We'll still get up and down the court. We still have weapons."
Several of the players -- Curry, guard Monta Ellis, center Andris Biedrins, forward Brandan Wright -- have strong relationships with Smart, who has worked with them since they came into the league.
Nelson left a lot of the hands-on parts of coaching to Smart, who governed practice and worked with players individually. Smart also helped smooth over some of the hard feelings Nelson left behind.
So a comfort zone exists between him and much of the current roster. Wright said he was "excited to play for" Smart. Even players no longer on the roster are excited.
"He's one of the reason's I've been successful, with his encouragement and always giving me knowledge about the game and in life in general," said guard C.J. Watson, whom the Warriors traded to Chicago this summer. "I wish I could've been playing for him while he is getting the opportunity. I know the players will have his ear."
Said Curry: "He's a great motivator. I think his hands-on mentality throughout the course of the year gives us more chemistry."