NBA legend Don Nelson recently sat down for an interview for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” in which he discussed a number topics including his budding “Nellie Kush” marijuana business, hanging with Willie Nelson, and the proposed trade that got him fired as head coach the Knicks.
Nelson, who briefly coached the Knicks during the 1996 season, told Gumbel how he suggested trading franchise center Patrick Ewing, who was 33 at the time, for Orlando’s 23-year old superstar in the making, Shaquille O’Neal. One month after suggesting the Ewing-Shaq trade, Nelson was fired, despite leading the Knicks to a 34-25 record.
Says Nelson, “You could tell something was different. Totally different. We had to split up after that.”
“Yes, it cost me my job,” Nelson said. “I said, ‘You need to trade Patrick Ewing and you need to trade him right away. There’s a guy by the name Shaquille O’Neal who’s available, we can jump in there and beat the Lakers out and we should do it.’
“It got back to Ewing and I was done. I was toast.”
“I didn’t think Ewing] had very much left in the tank,” Nelson said. “He was one-dimensional, he was interested in rebounds and points. I thought that we could do better.”