Mark Cuban denies snubbing Don, Donnie Nelson from ceremony
Mark Cuban is insisting that he did not give the cold shoulder to a pair of well-known former Dallas Mavericks employees.
Ex-Mavs coach Don Nelson and his son, former Mavs GM Donnie Nelson, were noticeably absent from Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki’s jersey retirement ceremony earlier this week. Speaking with Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News on Friday, Don said that he was not invited to the event.
“I wasn’t invited,” Don said. “I really wanted to be there, but I didn’t feel that I should just show up without an invitation, so I didn’t … I don’t think Dirk had any decisions about who was there. I think that’s all an organization thing. Mark Cuban’s in charge of that, I’m sure.”
Townsend’s story also quoted former Mavs minority owner Frank Zachinelli, who reacted to the absence of the Nelsons. Zachinelli was responsible for hiring Don to the team in 1997.
“It’s clear that Cuban carries these rifts and there were glaring holes [at the event],” said Zachinelli. “Don Nelson, other than Holger [Geschwindner] and Dirk’s father, is more responsible for the maturation of Dirk Nowitzki than any other human being.”
Zachinelli was a minority owner from 1996 to 2000 under then-majority owner Ross Perot Jr., from whom Cuban purchased the team in 2000. Perot sued Cuban in 2010 for alleged “financial mismanagement” of the Mavs, a suit that was eventually dismissed.
“Cuban’s rift with Ross Jr. is his rift with Ross Jr.,” Zaccanelli said. “But without Ross Jr. he’d just be another guy who’s got billions of dollars [and] who no one really knows a lot about. And that’s a [expletive] fact. And not having Don Nelson at that ceremony, how could you do that?”
Townsend’s story contains more details about the up-and-down relationship between Cuban and the Nelsons, and you can read it in full here.
Cuban reacted to the claim that he snubbed the Nelsons in an interview with Dalton Trigg of Sports Illustrated.
“Of course it’s not true,” Cuban said. “Not a single word of it. The whole article was initiated by Zachinelli, and [they] fell for it. Then people who did the event corrected [them].”
Cuban is referencing how Townsend’s story was later updated to reflect that Nowitzki, according to multiple sources, personally contacted the Nelsons to invite them to his jersey retirement ceremony. Townsend’s story also stated that Cuban was not in charge of the invite list, which was reportedly done by an event planner.
For what it’s worth, both Cuban and Nowitzki mentioned and thanked the Nelsons during the ceremony. You can see it for yourself at the 24:08 and 29:34 marks of the following video.
Don was coach of the Mavs from 1997 to 2005, making him Nowitzki’s first coach in the NBA. Donnie was GM of the Mavs from 2005 until 2021 when he was let go under controversial circumstances.
While the Nelsons’ absence may have just been a case of miscommunication, the drama definitely cast a bit of a shadow on Nowitzki’s ceremony.
Photo: Nov 27, 2016; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban smiles for the camera before the game between the Dallas Mavericks and the New Orleans Pelicans at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports