Adelman ready for next chapter
Rick Adelman turned heads by agreeing to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves
Adelman was quick to downplay any disdain for general manager David Kahn
The coach, 65, is looking forward to having his son, David, join the staff
There was a point this summer when I was chatting with a veteran NBA player who played for Rick Adelman and knows the longtime coach as well as anyone.
The Minnesota coaching search had just begun and Adelman's name had hardly been mentioned publicly, but I told this player what I had heard about the search: Timberwolves general manager David Kahn, the much-maligned executive who once covered Adelman as a sports writer for The Oregonian, was coveting the game's eighth winningest coach above all other candidates.
To which said player replied: "There's no way in hell Rick goes there."
Well, what do you know?
In a move that was surprising mainly because it was assumed he wanted to spent the twilight years of his career, well, winning, the 65-year-old coach with a .605 winning percentage (career record of 945-616) officially joined on Wednesday a team with a combined record of 32-132 in the last two seasons.
And while his decision surely had much to do with the $15 million in guaranteed money he was reportedly given, there were still plenty of questions to be answered about how he got to Minnesota and where he planned to take this sort-of-talented-but-previously-terrible team.
Adelman -- whom I covered while at The Sacramento Bee in 2005-06 but am fairly sure I'll never be in a position to hire -- answered each and every one of my curiosities during our chat regarding his decision.
From the reasons (no, reason) he's not in Houston anymore to a report that he has disdain for Kahn to the rationale he employed regarding both the Lakers' opening that he didn't fill and the Wolves' vacancy he did, he explained the offseason move that was unexpected and incredibly intriguing.
One disappointing disclaimer: Because of league rules pertaining to the lockout, Adelman couldn't discuss specific players and thus couldn't reveal his thoughts on the likes of Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams.
SI.com: So a player swore to me there was no way you'd take this job. Why was he wrong?
Adelman: Well, I'd gone through the summer and I'd looked at a lot of other situations. Minnesota approached me on it and [Kahn] kept talking to me about it, and we kept thinking more and more about it. I thought about how there could be something else next year job-wise or whatever that might turn out to be better. I just looked at their roster, and I know they've lost a lot of games, but they've got a very young team that has some talent and I just felt like maybe this is a situation where you add a couple pieces or whatever and you can turn it around in the other direction pretty quickly.
I also thought about the fact that you take some jobs that you think are very good and you end up -- because of the expectations and things -- that they aren't what you thought, they just blow up in your face, too. They can be just as tough of a job. That happened to me in Houston, where we lost the two guys, Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, and the whole situation changed. I just looked at it and thought, "Maybe it's a chance for me to take on a challenge like this, and where I am in my career and everything and see if I can't turn it around."
SI.com: You were always very candid about your Golden State chapter and how that was such a negative experience and memory for you. Are you convinced this situation won't be that? (Adelman posted his only two losing seasons of his 18 total while with the Warriors from 1995-97.)
Adelman: I think that situation, when I look back on it, we actually had a lot of veterans on that team, and they were going to make changes because of the free agency of some of the players. I think I probably made some mistakes in the way I handled some of that situation. [Note: Adelman has said that he wouldn't have allowed Tim Hardaway to force a trade to Miami midway through the 1995-96 season.] And then once they made the changes, everything went south because they didn't have a lot of good, young players.
These people are different because they're young, so many guys in their early 20s, but I think their talent is there and you have to get them to understand what they have to do to turn this thing around and have some success. That's going to be the hardest thing, is to change their mentality, because they've lost for two years in a row. But at Golden State, we just had a bad mix of people and I'm hoping that's not the case here.
SI.com: Speaking of people in Minnesota, can you touch on the notion that you can't stand your new boss?
Adelman: It just was written -- and I don't know where he came from, and the way he wrote it -- about despising Kahn, or however he put it, it's just not true. David is the one who actually contacted me and we had numerous conversations about the job. He just said, "It's going to be a tough job." Why would you jump into a job like that where you don't get along with the person? I don't know where it came from. I understand things happen, but the fact that I'm here should tell people that there's not that much truth to it.
SI.com: How will this work in terms of personnel? A lot of people don't realize that in Sacramento you had a significant voice in personnel moves and I'd imagine you'd like to have that again.
Adelman: Oh, I think it's going to be good. We talked about that when I talked to David about the job. I talked to Glen [Taylor, the Timberwolves owner], and I talked to David, and I'm pretty assured that I'm going to have a lot of input on the decisions we make. I think that's the way it should be, and that's the way Geoff [Petrie, Kings basketball president] and I worked, too. You have to talk things through, and we were very good at doing that, at listening to each other. And I think from a players' standpoint that you have to see that the front office and ownership and the coach, that everybody is one.
I'm sure I'm going to have input, but I also understand that my biggest challenge with this job is going to be coaching the team, coaching the players that I have. I certainly would like to have input on all the changes, but I can't get caught up in that when I'm not coaching the team.
SI.com: Was that an important point for you in negotiations?
Adelman: Yeah, it was important.
SI.com: So you obviously had interest in the Lakers job, but how did that go down?
Adelman: I think anybody would be interested, and that's because of the talent they have and the situation they're in. It's very intriguing to look at that. It just came down to the fact that we had some discussions about the team, about a lot of things, but they chose to go in a different route [in hiring Mike Brown]. It never really got to the point of, "Are you going to take the job or not?" And frankly, it was very quick after the season ended and I had just moved from Houston back to Portland, so it was kind of a whirlwind thing. But the fact that they decided pretty quickly that they were going to go with Mike, that was kind of it.
SI.com: That's quite a turnaround mentally to be looking at a championship-or-bust situation one minute and considering a spot like Minnesota the next.
Adelman: Yeah, and that's how it was going to be, too. Perception is always there, and you just said it, championship or bust. And then you're following probably the greatest coach in history, record-wise [in Phil Jackson], so there was a lot of stuff there, too. Certainly when you win, it's better than when you lose, but sometimes even when you win, you lose.
SI.com: Did the way you left Houston leave a bad taste in your mouth?
Adelman: I don't think it's a bad taste. I just think after talking through it, we were still getting along at that point and I could have gone back, but I just think there was a difference in philosophy from what they saw going forward to what I wanted to do, and it was just time to part ways.
SI.com: Philosophy in terms of the culture, or what do you mean?
Adelman: I don't think it was even that. You can look at a lot of stuff after the fact when people leave or whatever, and it's happened every time I've been some place -- it happened in Sacramento, too. There's always going to be things written that may or may not be true. But it's just the fact that they were willing to bring me back -- they told me that -- but they wanted to change things. They wanted to change our staff. They told me we had done a good job, and I just thought we could've done things differently. I had a very good staff, and thought we could've done things differently and they felt like, "No, we'd like to see a different influence." I didn't want to do that.
SI.com: Specifically, are you talking about Chris Finch? (The former coach of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers was widely known to be seen as a head-coaching successor in Houston and has since been added to the staff of new coach Kevin McHale).
Adelman: Well, it wasn't even who they were bringing in, just the fact of who they wanted me to let go. [Note: Elston Turner, Adelman's longtime lead assistant, subsequently turned down a head-coaching interview in Houston and became the lead assistant in Phoenix.]
SI.com: You obviously have a big void to fill with Turner gone. How's the staff looking?
Adelman: I have a good idea of what I'm going to do. We've just gotten through the process. I think it's crucial for me to get a staff I really can trust working with these young guys. We'll have a very good staff. There's about five or six names, guys I've known who have been around, and I just want to make sure I have the right mix.
SI.com: It has been reported that your son, David, will be joining you. That has to be a joy to be able to add him.
Adelman: Well, we haven't really solidified that yet, but it's an opportunity. That's part of why you do this, so someone has a chance. It's going to work out, but it hasn't been done yet.
SI.com: You can't talk about specific players because of the lockout, but do you see the kind of roster that can run your corner offense or will there be any revamping to the style?
Adelman: I think we're going to try to do some of the same things but probably tweak it once we get it on the court and actually see what people can do. We always do that, where we vary it depending on the people we have.