All Doug Moe could do was laugh when he heard about Friday's battle of septuagenarian set.
OK, so Don Nelson and Larry Brown don't actually turn 70 until later this year. But when they run into each other at Oracle Arena it will be the most years ever seen between opposing coaches in NBA history.
To be precise, Golden State's Nelson and Charlotte's Larry Brown will be a combined 139 years and 29 days.
"They're too old to coach,'' said Moe, the former NBA coach who battled both men in the 1970s, '80s and '90s. "I hope they don't fall asleep on the bench during the game. If I ever got to that age, I'd shoot myself.''
Uh, Doug, you're actually 71.
But Moe hasn't been an NBA head coach since he was 54. When Nelson, who turns 70 on May 15, and Brown, 70 on Sept. 14, were that age, they were barely halfway through their illustrious coaching runs.
Now, they will meet in a geriatric game.
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Brown is approaching Friday's game with a bit more enthusiasm. Perhaps that's because his Bobcats are 22-22 compared to 13-31 for Nelson's injury-riddled Warriors, the NBA's third-worst mark.
"I guess when I see Nellie, I'll feel pretty special,'' Brown said.
Nelson and Brown are two of the three oldest full-time coaches in NBA history. The oldest was Hubie Brown of Memphis, who coached his last game on Nov. 24, 2004, one day shy of 71 years and two months.
If you want the absolute oldest, it was Bill Berkta of the Lakers. The assistant stepped in for one game as interim coach on Feb. 25, 1999 at 71 years, 6 months, 17 days.
"I didn't even know about it until I read it in the newspaper the next day,'' Bertka says of his place in history.
Bertka's record one day might be broken. It likely won't be by Nelson, who says there's no way he's going to coach past next season's final year of his contract. So, barring an unexpected playoff run by the Warriors, Nelson won't make it to 71.
Brown, though, might not be going anywhere soon, with Nelson saying he "can have the record'' for longevity. If Brown fulfills the life of his contract, which runs through 2011-12, he would be coaching late in that regular season at 71 years, 7 months. That would make him the oldest ever.
"I'm not looking at that,'' Brown said of that milestone. "But I wouldn't know what I would do (if not coaching). I can't think of retiring.''
Whoever thought of Brown not coaching? He made his pro debut as a head coach at 32 for the ABA's Carolina Cougars in 1972-73 after having played point guard in that league for five seasons. He's been on the bench at the college or pro level ever since with the exception of 2006-08, when he sat out after being fired by New York.
"Larry might be a guy who could coach until he's 80,'' said Denver coach George Karl. "He's in that good health.''
Karl, like Brown and Moe, attended North Carolina. Moe was a senior in 1960-61 when Brown was a sophomore.
Moe said he knew then Brown would be a coach. Moe said Brown "loved the game and that's all he ever did.''
As for Nelson, let's just say few thought he one day would challenge coaching longevity records when he first set foot on the Iowa campus in 1958.
"I never thought he would be a coach,'' said Sharm Scheuerman, Nelson's college coach. "He was a naive farm kid (from western Illinois) who had never been to the city. But he was a really hard-nosed player.''
Something happened, though, after Nelson joined Red Auerbach's legendary Boston Celtics in 1965. Scheuerman said Nelson became "street smart'' during his NBA years.
By 1976-77, the season after Nelson had retired following a 14-year NBA career as a rugged forward, he found himself as Milwaukee's head coach. He took over 18 games into the season at the age of 36 after Larry Costello had been fired.
On Dec. 7, 1976, Pearl Harbor Day in the Bicentennial year, Nelson coached against Brown for the first time. Brown, after four ABA seasons coaching Carolina and Denver, had taken the Nuggets into the NBA that season.
For the record, the Nuggets won 122-115. It's doubtful anybody that night at Denver's McNichols Arena figured these two guys still would be going at it more than 33 years later.
Come Friday, Brown and Nelson will have faced each other during 22 of the past 34 NBA seasons. They didn't meet during seven seasons when Brown was in college at UCLA and Kansas, in four years when one or the other was out of coaching and during the lockout season of 1998-99.
As long as they've been in the NBA together, they surprisingly have met just once in the playoffs, primarily due to most often being in opposite conferences. That was in 1991, when Nelson's Warriors beat Brown's San Antonio Spurs 3-1 in a West first-round series.
Considering the Warriors averaged 112.8 points in that series, it's understandable they won. Talk to just about anybody who knows both men and the differences in the two will come up.
"One's a defensive coach and one's an offensive coach,'' said guard Stephen Jackson, who played all or part of four seasons with Nelson's Warriors before being traded last November to Brown's Bobcats. "I think they're both players' coaches, both easy to get along with. But Don Nelson, he wants to outscore you and coach Brown wants to defend first.''
Also seeing differences is Dell Curry, a Bobcats television analyst whose son, rookie guard Stephen Curry, plays for the Warriors. Curry often went up against Nelson and Brown teams while playing in the NBA from 1986-2002.
"Larry is a teacher who is always coaching, especially in practice, and I think Nellie just kind of says, 'Here's the ball. Just go play,''' said Dell Curry. "There's nothing wrong with it, but that's his coaching style.''
Nelson, known for short practices while Brown loves long ones, doesn't disagree. He calls Brown "more structured than I am.''
Still, the two have a tremendous amount of respect for each other.
"I don't think of them as battles,'' Brown said of years of going against Nelson. "I just admire Nellie. He's so unique. The game is maximizing what players can do. I don't think anybody does it any better.''
And who does Nelson call the greatest coach in basketball history at any level? Not an NBA icon such as Auerbach or Phil Jackson. Not a college legend such as John Wooden or Adolph Rupp.
"I consider (Brown) the greatest coach to ever coach,'' Nelson said. "He's won wherever he's been. He won a college championship at Kansas (in 1988) and then in the NBA (with Detroit in 2004 to make him the only coach to win at both those levels). I think they should add his ABA record to his NBA one. That would make him the winningest coach in pro basketball history.''
Well, at least not yet. Add Brown's four-year ABA record of 229-107 to his 26-year NBA mark of 1,067-869 and that's 1,296-976.
The NBA career record for coaching wins is 1,332 by Lenny Wilkens. It's a mark Nelson, who is 1,322-1,038 in 31 seasons, is approaching at a turtle's pace lately but should break by April.
Nelson, who never has been to the NBA Finals despite a legendary career that includes a record-tying three awards for Coach of the Year, has mixed emotions in his pursuit of the mark.
"I'd be sad because (Wilkens) was my idol, but I also would be proud,'' Nelson said.
Brown said his ABA coaching mark should be included in the NBA record book, but then quickly adds he's "not interested in that'' simply because it would make the him officially the winningest coach ever. As for unofficially becoming the winningest ever, Brown could move into that spot as soon as next season.
If you want throw out victory totals, on display Friday at Oracle Arena will be a combined 2,618 coaching wins, including 2,389 in the NBA. But just as impressive is these guys both still on the bench as they approach 70.
"Both of them could go past Hubie (for oldest full-time head coach),'' said TNT analyst and former NBA coach Mike Fratello, who took over after Hubie Brown stepped down from Memphis and is apparently not convinced Nelson definitely will be done after next season. "Health wise, if they both feel they can do it."
Actually, Nelson's health was not great early in the season. He missed 10 games due to pneumonia, and was replaced on the bench by assistant Keith Smart.
But Nelson says he fine now. And he says he doesn't feel as if he's 69.
"That was a tough situation, but I've gotten better,'' Nelson said of the pneumonia. "It could have been a serious situation. But I'm 100 percent now.''
Nelson doesn't deny, though, he's changed his coaching ways a bit as he's gotten older.
"I don't work practices like I used to,'' Nelson said. "I basically let my assistant coaches run practices more than I used to.''
Not that Nelson ever has had very intense practices. As for Brown, it's a different story.
The 5-foot-9 Brown goes on the court often, sometimes teaching post moves to guys more than a foot taller. Bobcats center DeSagana Diop said Brown is in "great shape for a guy who has been coaching forever,'' and never shows fatigue even during practices as long as 2 1/2 hours.
"I don't feel like I'm close to 70,'' said Brown, who works out regularly. "I just feel thankful that I can still do it. I want to coach as long as I feel like I'm doing the job. I've been blessed. ... I always felt I would be a high school coach, and I became a pro coach by accident.''
Brown admits he likes practices a lot more these days than games, but said he hasn't changed much over the years. He believes he can relate to players who are as much as a half-century older because he's "always been like a college coach and I think kids want you to teach them no matter how old they are.''
If you want one thing in common to approaches taken by Nelson and Brown, it doesn't seem as if either is following Hubie Brown's formula for coaching in the NBA around the age of 70. Hubie Brown, who stunned observers when he took Memphis' job in November 2002 at 69 after being out of coaching for 16 years and then was named NBA Coach of the Year in 2003-04, was asked the secret to doing it at such an advanced age.
"Late nights are out,'' he said. "Late dinners are out. "The afternoon of games, you've got to take a nap.''
Well, Nelson is well known for enjoying the nightlife. And the workaholic Brown's approach is, "I never sleep.''
Both, though, are still going strong.
"They're basketball lifers,'' Moe said.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson.