Degrees of pressure
What's in store -- and at stake -- for 7 new coaches
Posted: Monday August 6, 2007 2:04PM; Updated: Tuesday August 7, 2007 7:37AM
Lost amid all the player movement that occurs each summer are the moves that offer just as much room for change -- coaches. Seven teams hired new bench generals this offseason. As many coaches will admit, they not only are hired to be fired, but they're also only as good as the talent at their disposal. So which new hires are stepping into stable situations and who is destined for a lot of sleepless nights? Let's take a look, from those facing the most pressure to the least:
Rick Adelman, Rockets
Vital stats: Has crafted a 752-481 record in 16 seasons as a head coach in Portland, Golden State and Sacramento; holds a 70-68 record in the playoffs, including two appearances in the Finals.
1. Get to the second round: That's the reason Jeff Van Gundy is no longer in Houston, right? A team with Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady should always be a threat for a deep playoff run, yet neither has reached the second round in his career. Yes, a large part of the responsibility for the Rockets' early exits rests with those two, but it also rested with a coach in Van Gundy who struggled with the concept of offense. That has never been a problem for Adelman, who, with a big assist from Pete Carril, made the Kings' offense the envy of the league before the Suns took over the NBA fashion spreads. He didn't put together too bad a team in Portland, either. But getting teams deep into the playoffs has never been Adelman's problem ...
2. ... Winning a title has been: The one knock on Adelman has been that he can't win in the clutch, which Houston also hasn't done in recent years. And though they're in the West, the Rockets are built to win now. With the additions of polished power forward Luis Scola from Argentina -- by way of the Spurs -- Mike James and Bonzi Wells (from his self-imposed exile), new general manager Daryl Morey has made the Rockets more dynamic, capable of winning even if the defense isn't air tight. Adelman's history suggests the Rockets should ace the regular season, but he'll have to prove he can outmotivate and outscheme the Hall of Fame lineup of coaches out West for Houston to fulfill expectations.
3. Open your mind: While few of Morey's moves to this point have been head-scratchers, his background crunching numbers and looking for underutilized talents may raise an eyebrow or two soon. Adelman will have to be willing to adjust to some perhaps unorthodox suggestions, and the fact that he was hired by Morey indicates he's on board with the concepts the front office is espousing. But Adelman will have to be prepared for every rotation, every move, to be analyzed and probed for its relative efficiency. Personally, we think the approach will work, but only if Adelman buys in, too.
Prognosis: Good. Houston is already a playoff-worthy club. With Adelman's track record producing smooth-operating, explosive offenses, fans should be entertained while preparing for a return to the postseason. With Van Gundy no longer on the bench, though, the team will have to be careful not to cast aside the defensive posture it developed. But Adelman knows the West well, and knows his strengths as a coach are now in vogue across the league. He also has a GM who's demonstrated he isn't afraid to shake up the roster. That should at least be good enough for a move into the second round and, with any luck, beyond.