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The decision that made Run TMC possible "I'm gonna call no plays"

Don Nelson & Golden State Warrriors

The mastermind behind this style of play was Don Nelson.

If you want to figure out whether someone is a real NBA fan, ask them to name the members of Run TMC. One of the most electric trios in NBA history, Tim HardawayMitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin, was a revolution. They didn’t just win many games; they provided a lot of pizza.

Creating the RUN TMC from the ground up

Before the’ 90/’91 season, a promotion was announced. For every home game that the Warriors win AND score over 120 points, everyone in the arena would get a free pizza. You can imagine how the pizza place’s manager felt when the Warriors won their season opener vs. Denver 162–158. That remains the highest-scoring game without overtime in NBA history. The Warriors would score 120 or more twenty times that season. That’s a lot of pizza.

The mastermind behind this style of play was Don Nelson. The Warriors had brought Nelson from Milwaukee, where he also worked as coach/GM. Chris Mullin was already there, and in his first Draft as Warriors GM, Nelson selected Mitch Richmond with the 5th pick. It didn’t take long for Nellie to trade most of the team and get players who could play the way he wanted them to play. It truly was most of the team.

“Once Nellie took over, he was like, "I'm changing this whole thing." I go to rehab; he trades eight guys while I'm in there. I took Southwest; I was coming back from rehab. I get off this Southwest flight in Oakland airport, and the team is at the same gate I'm getting off at, to go play a game in LA. I walk off, and I knew no-one.”

Chris Mullin, The Habershow Podcast

Nelson didn't call plays

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In the 1989 Draft, Nelson picked Tim Hardaway. By his admission, Nelson was choosing the best player available at no.14. Soon he realized what kind of offensive talent he had on the team. That’s when Nelson decided the team needed to play fast. Really fast. Unlike most coaches, Nelson didn’t micromanage his team. Quite the opposite.

“I'm gonna call no plays. As long as you guys are sharing the basketball, playing the right way, no plays.”

Don Nelson

There was only one rule – Hardaway had to pass it when they initiated offense. His crossover was so good; he could’ve blown by his man every time. If the ball got him a second time in the possession, Hardaway had free reign to do his thing. Someone should talk to James Harden about this. Here's their defensive approach to make the story more accessible to Harden.

“Probably something guys wouldn't do now. Middle of season, playing well, he [Nelson] would just walk to the chalkboard and put up 120 and circle it. 'Let's go 120 tonight and let's get out of here.' No scouting report, no defense. That was nice, that's a cool way to come and play the game.”

Chris Mullin, The Habershow Podcast

Unfortunately, they lasted for only two seasons. The concept was radical, and Nelson was getting a lot of pressure to play a more conventional style. He traded the 6’5″ Richmond to the Kings for 6’8″ Billy Owens. A decision Nelson regrets ever since. So do we.

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