Ron Kroichick, Chronicle Staff Writer

Thursday, July 31, 2008

(07-31) 15:50 PDT -- Warriors coach Don Nelson won an emphatic legal victory Thursday when an arbitrator ruled that the Dallas Mavericks must pay Nelson nearly $6.3 million stemming from Nelson's tenure as their coach and general manager.

Retired judge Glen M. Ashworth issued his ruling in the wake of an arbitration hearing in June. Ashworth granted Nelson's breach-of-contract claim against Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and denied Cuban's counter-claims that Nelson breached the agreement by accepting the Warriors' job and used proprietary information in guiding Golden State to its landmark playoff upset of the Mavs in 2007.

"This was not so much a legal defeat for Cuban as it was an old-fashioned ***-whupping," said John O'Connor, Nelson's lawyer. "We couldn't have done any better. This is a home run."

The ruling awarded Nelson more than $1.95 million in past due deferred compensation; more than $146,000 in interest on past due payments; and more than $4.17 million in present-day value of future deferred compensation payments. The grand total: $6,276,638.46.

Nelson was on a golf course in Maui when O'Connor called with the news.

"Nellie was very happy," O'Connor said. "Being the tough guy, he said, 'That's what I expected.' He didn't think he'd stolen one, because he didn't think he was wrong."

Cuban did not immediately respond to an e-mail from The Chronicle.

Nelson stepped down as Dallas' coach in May 2005 and agreed to serve as a consultant for the team. Nelson claimed Cuban stopped paying his consultant's salary in July 2006 and also cut off his deferred payments, earned during his time as coach and GM, after Nelson returned to the Warriors on Aug. 30, 2006.

Thursday's decision ended nearly two years of legal wrangling between Nelson and Cuban. The "interim award" will become final once the two sides resolve the matter of attorney's fees.