The Golden State Warriors announced today that Don Nelson has relinquished his head coaching duties and that Assistant Coach Keith Smart has been named his successor. Smart, 46, will become the 23rd head coach in franchise history and the 18th since the team moved to the West Coast prior to the 1962-63 season.
“We feel that Keith Smart is ready for this challenge as we embark on a new season,” said General Manager Larry Riley. “He has a wealth of experience as a player and coach in this game and has been fortunate to be around some of the best minds in the business, including Don Nelson at the NBA level and Bobby Knight in college. He’s an outstanding communicator, has a vast knowledge of the game and I’m confident that he is the right person for the job. Additionally, he has previous head coaching experience in the NBA, including several games during Nellie’s absence last season, and in the CBA. In regard to Nellie, we simply felt it was the right time to make a change. He’s been a terrific coach for over three decades and has left a lasting legacy in this league as the winningest coach in the history of the NBA.”
Smart, who joined the Warriors prior to the 2003-04 season, has spent the previous seven seasons as an assistant coach with the club. Overall, the Baton Rouge, LA, native has served a total of 11 seasons as an NBA assistant coach and has amassed 21 years of experience in professional basketball as either a player or coach. Prior to joining the Warriors, Smart spent three seasons in Cleveland, where he concluded his stint with the Cavaliers as the club’s interim head coach over the final 40 games of the 2002-03 campaign.
In addition to his vast NBA coaching experience, Smart has served as a head coach for various teams at different levels, including the Ft. Wayne Fury of the CBA. He helped guide the Fury to its first back-to-back winning seasons in franchise history in 1997-98 and 1998-99 during a three-year tenure with the club. During his initial campaign with the team (1997-98), he guided the Fury to a franchise record 31-win season and a trip to the playoffs. The following season, the Fury qualified for post-season play again, despite having a single-season franchise record nine (9) players signed to NBA contracts during the course of the year. Smart was named the CBA’s Coach of the Month five times during his stint in Ft. Wayne and had a CBA-high 21 players signed to NBA contracts.
During his professional basketball playing career, Smart spent six seasons in the CBA, two seasons in France and one in Venezuela. He also played briefly in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs during the 1988-89 season. Smart was originally drafted by the Warriors in the second round (41st overall) of the 1998 NBA Draft.
As a collegian, Smart spent two season at Indiana University, where he played for Bobby Knight and helped lead the Hoosiers to the 1987 NCAA Championship. He was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1987 Final Four and is widely recognized for his game-winning shot against Syracuse in the 1987 title game in New Orleans.