Don Nelson rode his “Nellie Ball” brand to a regular-season record 1,335 NBA coaching wins over 31 seasons. Now he has another brand — a strain of marijuana called “Nellie Kush.”
“Oh, it’s great. Great stuff,’’ the retired coaching legend, now 77, told The New York Times, describing the weed he grows for personal use at his retirement home on Maui.
“It’s called Nellie Kush,’’ Nelson said. “It’s O.G. and Hindu Kush. Hindu Kush is really good. It comes from India and the guy that brought it over mixed the two of them, so we’ve got Nellie Kush now.’’
Nelson, who retired as a player in 1976 after 14 seasons, told the newspaper: “I’ve got a medical card. I’m legal here. When any athlete gets old, every injury you have sustained seems to resurrect. It helps me deal with the pain without pain pills, and helps with that stress.”
Nelson said he was introduced to weed about three or four years ago by that high priest of hemp himself, Willie Nelson — a fellow Maui denizen who’s also part of a star-studded weekly poker game hosted by the ex-coach.
Other regulars at the game include Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson.
“I didn’t smoke until maybe three or four years ago,’’ Don Nelson told The Times. “I never smoked when I was coaching. I just started. Willie got me smoking. …
“I didn’t think I’d ever be a pot smoker, but hanging out with Willie and Woody and guys like that, you know, everybody smokes in those games. It just became kind of natural. Usually you’re smoking with your friends, sitting around, telling stories, you smoke a bowl. It’s not that I smoke all the time. I usually just smoke at night during poker games. Like Willie told me, it’s hard to be depressed when you’re smoking pot. …
“I just grow for myself. You’re allowed to grow up to 10 plants, so you have plenty to smoke. I’ve never sold. I would never do that.’’
What’s it like to play poker with Willie Nelson?
“He never saw a card he didn’t like,’’ Don Nelson said. “He raises every time, no matter what. Every time it goes by him, it’s $50, $50, $50. I’m conservative. But Willie, man, he’s wild. Woody is wild. Owen’s pretty good. Woody’s a terrible card player.”
Retired from coaching since 2010, Nelson also dabbles in real estate in Hawaii, building rental properties.
He still follows the NBA, but casually. He’s said he’s rooting for the Warriors, one of four teams he coached — including the Knicks, for part of one tumultuous season in 1995-96 — to win the NBA title.
“I haven’t studied it enough to give you a good answer,’’ Nelson said.
“Everybody says Houston is really good. I don’t like Houston, personally, but it’s just because of a lot of competition over the years — with Dallas, you know. I’m a Warrior guy, so I’m rooting for the Warriors, but Steph [Curry] has got to be 100 percent to beat that team.’’