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Former NBA coach Don Nelson, now a marijuana farmer in Maui, profiled in HBO segment

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 6/26/2019 JR Radcliffe
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On Monday, Milwaukee Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer was named NBA Coach of the Year for 2019. On Tuesday night, the last man to win that award for the Bucks, Don Nelson, was profiled on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," profiling his life of retirement farming marijuana in Hawaii.

Nelson, who was named coach of the year with the Bucks in 1983 and 1985, helped build the Bucks into one of the powers of the Eastern Conference in the early 1980s and has been hailed by such greats as Pat Riley as one of the greatest innovators the game has ever seen. Nelson, who also put the building blocks in place that turned the Golden State Warriors into today's NBA superpower, has been out of coaching for nine years and has found a chill next chapter living in Maui.

Nelson grows his own marijuana, called "Nellie Kush," entirely for personal use. He has permission to use marijuana for medical reasons, and he said in the interview that he smokes every day.

"You've got to treat it like a baby," Nelson said with a laugh. "Water them, you've got to have music for them. You've got to bless them. It's a whole process, I'm telling you."

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The 12-minute featurette explores Nelson's friendship with country music legend Willie Nelson — another notable proponent of marijuana.

"With or without weed, Nellie is still Nellie," Willie Nelson said at one point.

The two met over poker, and Don Nelson hosts games in his house on a regular basis, including one legendary night when a close friend died at the table, and some of his ashes remain on display in a cigar tube in Don Nelson's home.

The segment also explores his relationship with daughter Leigh Anderson, a relation Nelson didn't know existed until her adulthood.

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Nelson played 14 years in the league and coached the Bucks from 1976-87, leading the Bucks to nine playoff appearances. His teams went to three Eastern Conference Finals and six more conference semifinals. 

The Bucks have gone to just two conference finals since Nelson left, once in 2001 and again this past season, led by the first-year coach Budenholzer.  

Nelson still follows the Warriors and caught some national attention in February when he was part of a postgame press conference at a Warriors game and reported he'd been "smoking some pot" as part of his post-coaching career.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Former NBA coach Don Nelson, now a marijuana farmer in Maui, profiled in HBO segment

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