Don Nelson, tanned and weighing 30 pounds less than when he last paced the Warriors bench, was explaining the basics of a new line a work: Selling Hawaiian shave ice.
"It's a simple little business, but it's attractive because when people go to Maui, they like to have shave ice," said Nelson, who recently bought a shop in the small Hawaiian town of Paia where he lives with his wife Joy. "You shave the ice, put some juice on it and then sell it for four bucks. It's 95 percent profit."
The man known simply as "Nellie" is more focused on dollars and cents these days with his expanding entrepreneur interests. His days worrying about wins and losses are over.
"I can absolutely say that I'm done with coaching," said Nelson, 72. "I'm having too much fun not coaching. I'm living a life that I didn't know about and doing all these interesting things. There is life after basketball."
But the game isn't quite done with him.
On Sept. 7, Nelson will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame -- a long-belated honor considering he is the NBA's all-time leader in coaching victories with 1,335.
"It means a lot to me," Nelson said Tuesday over lunch in Oakland with a group of reporters. "I always felt like I wasn't worthy. When I kept getting voted down over the years, I didn't think I was ever going to get it. I still feel unworthy. But I'm in now, so somebody voted for me."
A year ago, Nelson gave the impression
But when he didn't get the job, Nelson focused on tending to a growing array of small businesses. He owns rental cottages and other buildings on Maui. (The shave ice shop rented space from him before he bought it.) He has broken ground on a 4,000-square foot hall for receptions after wedding ceremonies are held on his beach.
He has a 22-acre farm where he grows koa and olive trees, flowers and coffee beans, which he turns into "Nellie's Coffee" brew.
"We put it in a contest with 19 entries and finished fourth," Nelson said. "So we make the fourth-best coffee on Maui."
He's also helping a friend with a business that will manufacture products like watches and bicycles -- which mostly are made overseas now -- in the United States. They intend to open a plant in Detroit.
And when he's not thinking about business -- did we mention the dog food he's test-marketing? -- Nelson is hanging out with a close circle of pals that include country singer Willie Nelson and actors Owen Wilson and Woody Harrelson. They play poker about three times a week when they're all in Maui.
"It's a wonderful life," he said.
This spring Nelson walked in the University of Iowa commencement ceremony when he finally completed his bachelor's degree requirements five decades after leaving campus. Now comes a Hall of Fame induction to cap a career that spanned nearly half a century as an NBA player, coach and executive.
Nelson, who grew up on an Illinois farm, played 14 professional seasons and won five championship with the Boston Celtics. Then he coached 31 years, including two stints with the Warriors, and three times was named the NBA Coach of the Year.
Acknowledged as one of basketball's most innovative minds, Nelson developed the "point-forward" strategy of using a forward to direct the offense. His small-ball alignments -- especially the beloved Run TMC teams featuring Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin -- electrified the Bay Area.
It wasn't all smooth sailing. There often was off-the-court drama with Nelson. (Exhibit A: The Chris Webber feud.) He also never won an NBA title as a coach.
But Nelson is remembering only the positives.
"I was in the NBA since I was 22," said Nelson, who wore a Warriors sweat top. "It was my whole life. I had a lot of ups and downs as a coach. There were good times and bad times. But I can't remember the bad times now. It's just been one of those storybook lives."
At the Hall of Fame ceremony, Nelson will be presented by Mullin, Bob Lanier and Satch Sanders. But before heading to Springfield, Mass., he first is returning to Maui on Friday.
"And a poker game on Saturday," Nelson said, laughing.
Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745.