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Donn Nelson Leaves Suns for Dallas

January 3, 1998

PHOENIX (AP) _ Phoenix Suns assistant coach Donn Nelson resigned Friday and accepted an offer to become his father’s successor as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2000-01 season.

Nelson Jr. will be Dallas’ scouting director the rest of this season, an assistant coach the next two years and head coach the following season.

``I guess I just made my dad the interim coach,″ he joked before the Mavericks-Suns game in the American West Arena.

Don Nelson, who was hired as the Mavericks’ general manager Feb. 7, fired coach Jim Cleamons on Dec. 4 and took over on the bench. On Wednesday, he received Suns president Jerry Colangelo’s permission to offer his son a job.

Donn Nelson’s five-year contract had a clause that allowed him to leave to become a head coach.

Suns coach Danny Ainge wouldn’t let Nelson help coach the game.

``I just looked at him differently. He’s a Dallas Maverick,″ Ainge said. But he said there was no animosity in the parting and predicted Nelson would succeed in the manner of his father, the NBA’s fourth-winningest active coach.

``He’s been big for me as an assistant,″ Ainge said. ``Last year, (Ainge’s first) he saved me. He was very helpful. I just relied on him a lot.″

``I feel like the last day of high school graduation,″ said Nelson, who was hired by former Suns coach Paul Westphal on July 26, 1995, and also worked under Cotton Fitzsimmons. ``You know, you’re signing yearbooks and kissing people and hugging. It’s been a great ride.″

Nelson was Ainge’s lead assistant, ranking ahead of Frank Johnson and Scott Skiles.

The coach said he was looking for an experienced replacement, but not necessarily one with NBA coaching or playing experience.

``I’ve got plenty of NBA experience,″ Ainge said. ``We have that with Frank and Scott. I need somebody who’s been up at 3 a.m. studying tape, somebody who’s tested a full-court press, a 1-3-1 type of zone. You know, just somebody who’s been battle-tested.″

Also Friday, the Suns hired former player Tom Chambers as a special assistant to the coaching staff and a community relations liaison.

Chambers, who ranks 24th with 20,049 points during 15-plus seasons in the NBA, was the first unrestricted free agent in league history when he left Seattle for the Suns in July 1988.

He played more than five years with Phoenix and holds the single-game scoring record with 60 points. He was traded to Philadelphia on Nov. 21 after he punched strength and conditioning coach Robin Pound during a disagreement. He retired last month.

``You leave that stuff on the court or in the locker room. We’re both part of the team,″ Chambers said about he incident. He said he was still in good shape and that his coaching role might include working with the Suns’ young big men, possibly in 2-on-2 or 3-or-3 games for players who aren’t part of the rotation.

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