MILWAUKEE (AP) _ A farm boy turned pro basketball coach took the offensive Friday, using a game plan he hopes will help farmers score some much needed financial help.

Don Nelson, coach of the National Basketball Association Milwaukee Bucks since 1976, climbed aboard a $45,000 tractor at the Wisconsin State Fair and began a nine-day, 250-mile fund-raising trip to Wausau.

Nelson, 46, who grew up on an Illinois farm and later played for the Boston Celtics, said he hoped the trip would raise half his $500,000 goal for ''Nellie's Farm Fund.''

Helpers passed bushel baskets to collect contributions from bystanders, as Nelson used the tractor to tow a wagon and giant piggy bank.

''A little donation to Nellie's Farm Fund. What do you say?'' Nelson said over a loudspeaker. ''Give something back in life.''

Gov. Anthony Earl, who declared it ''Nellie Week'' in Wisconsin, said Nelson had ''captured the imagination of people all over the state with this effort.''

Nelson already has raised $100,000 this summer, and he said some of the funds had been given to needy farmers. A portion of the money has gone to a management company that offers business advice to struggling farmers, he said.

Nelson also hopes to raise some of the half-million-dollar goal by taking pledges on how much weight he can lose by mid-October. And a statewide telethon is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 17, the day after the tractor trek ends.

A farm-fund board of directors, which will include Bucks' owner Herb Kohl, will decide after Sept. 1 exactly how to spend the money.

''If we could all band together and come under one umbrella ... pool our resources, I think it would be a tremendous lift to farmers in this state,'' Nelson said at the fairgrounds.

Spectators were enthusiastic.

''I think it's fantastic,'' said Tom Filipiak Sr., a schoolteacher from Dousman. ''It's terrific for the state of Wisconsin, a terrific booster for the morale of farmers.''

John Zager, a 62-year-old cattle farmer from Oconomowoc, said Nelson had a good idea but questioned whether the effort was enough.

''It's like putting a fire out with a pail of water,'' he said. ''But it's a good start.''

Zager said he had worked a second job at a manufacturing plant in Milwaukee for 40 years to stay financially secure.

''It takes two jobs to make it go,'' Zager said. ''I've got neighbors who are going bankrupt. Right next door two of them are going out. The old men can't hold on forever and the young guys can't afford to get in.''

Nelson's first stop Friday night was to be in Menominee Falls. Other stops were scheduled for West Bend, Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay, Shawano, Birnamwood, and finally, Wausau.