The date was Jan. 4, 2000. The Dallas Mavericks were in Denver and wound up defeating the Nuggets.
But it was the events of earlier that day — far away from the Mile High City — that set the Mavs’ franchise on a different course. Back in Dallas, businessman Mark Cuban was busy putting the finishing touches on an agreement to purchase the Mavs from Ross Perot Jr. for $285 million.
I thought we were going to be fired, because poor Stevie, as you can remember, couldn’t make a jump shot. Dirk was getting thrown around like a rag doll, and here comes Mark.
Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, recalling Jan. 4, 2000
The news wasn’t met with any real enthusiasm by coach Don Nelson and his coaching staff, since the Mavs were wallowing in the middle of yet another unforgettable season.
Nelson and his staff figured the new owner would do what most new owners do when they buy a fledgling franchise — even though the Mavs had a pair of young building blocks in Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash.
“I thought we were going to be fired, because poor Stevie, as you can remember, couldn’t make a jump shot,” said Donnie Nelson, who was an assistant coach at the time on his father’s staff. “Dirk was getting thrown around like a rag doll, and here comes Mark.
“I thought that I was going to have to go out and be a high school coach some place, because at that time I was still relatively new on the coaching side.’’
You automatically know when those words come out — ‘I think you’re going to be all right’ — it is like they’re building the gallows and just get it over with.
Donnie Nelson, after being told of the Mavs’ sale by Ross Perot Jr.
It was a night Donnie Nelson will never forget.
“I remember it like it was yesterday because Mark bought the team, Nellie and I were in Denver, Nellie got the call first, I got the call second, and it was Ross,” Nelson said. “Ross was saying ‘Hey, I sold the team,’ and when you hear that, it’s like your blood runs cold.
“And the next thing I can remember him saying was ‘I think you’re going to be all right.’ You automatically know when those words come out — ‘I think you’re going to be all right’ — it is like they’re building the gallows and just get it over with.”
Cuban, though, surprised everyone when he decided to keep Don Nelson and his entire staff intact. More than 16 years later, Donnie Nelson is now the Mavs’ general manager and president of basketball operations.
Nod to Peyton
Rick Carlisle paused to pay homage to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who will announce his retirement at a news conference Monday.
Carlisle and Manning became friends while the two worked in Indianapolis. Carlisle was an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers from 1997-2000 and head coach of the Pacers from 2003-07, while Manning quarterbacked the Indianapolis Colts from 1998-2011.
He was a terrific guy to be friends with.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, on knowing Peyton Manning when both were in Indianapolis
“He’s had an amazing career,” Carlisle said. “I got to know him in Indiana some.
“He was a terrific guy to be friends with. I’ve been extremely impressed with all his accomplishments and the way he handles himself.”
Carlisle has even played golf with Manning.
“I had one of my better rounds one day against him and Larry Bird, but I’m not getting into that,” Carlisle said. “That was awhile ago.”
On Nancy Reagan
Commenting on Sunday’s death of former first lady Nancy Reagan, Carlisle said: “Wonderful lady. Did a lot of great things.”
Carlisle didn’t get to meet her husband in the White House. Carlisle played for Boston when the Celtics won the 1986 NBA title. But the Celtics didn’t make the customary trip the next season to the White House to meet the president, Ronald Reagan.