Adelman retires, Wolves focus on successor (and keeping Love)

By Steve Aschburner,

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

Rick Adelman won more than 1,000 games in a 23-year NBA coaching career. (Noah Graham/NBAE)

The residue of another season of expectations not met continued to build in Minnesota, where Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman announced his retirement Monday morning.

Adelman, 67, exits via an option on the fourth year of his contract. The Wolves had targeted a .500 finish and a postseason berth as their goals this season and fell short of both; they posted a 40-42 record and missed the playoffs for the 10th consecutive spring.

“It’s time. It’s time for me to step aside,” Adelman said at a news conference, accompanied by Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders. “I think when we came here, we really tried to see if we couldn’t turn things around. I think we made some strides … not as much as we would like.

“It’s time for someone else to come in.”

Adelman’s departure as coach — he will take on a consultant’s role with the organization  — had been the subject of speculation for weeks, after it became apparent the Wolves would miss what would have been their first playoff berth since 2004. His wife Mary Kay‘s health issues — she began fighting a series of seizures last season, causing him to miss 11 games in 2012-13  — are ongoing, though the veteran coach said they did not lead to this decision.

“If anything, my wife is the one who pushed me. She said, ‘You need to continue doing this,’ ” Adelman said. “Certainly it had an impact but the whole organization has been so great.”

In his three seasons with the Wolves, they went 97-133 and failed to reach .500 all three years. It was the least successful stretch of his 23-year NBA coaching career, during which his teams in Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota compiled a record of 1,042-749 (.582) with 16 postseason appearances. He ranks eighth all-time in NBA coaching victories, and with two trips to The Finals with the Blazers in 1990 and 1992, likely will be enshrined soon in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

While Adelman heads off to his home in Portland without a championship ring, no one should think he didn’t put the work and the urgency into chasing one in Minnesota. Saunders spoke of the coach’s competitiveness.

“He comes across as very even-natured and you might not think he gets excited. But he’s got a burning passion to win,” Saunders said. “Being with him on a daily basis, you could see when we didn’t perform well that it really ate at him.”

Said Adelman: “It’s not that far away [in Minnesota]. Sometimes you want it to happen in a year, sometimes in two years. Sometimes it takes longer than that.

“I wish I could have done more, but I really enjoyed my time. … There’s some sadness but I also think, some relief.”

Saunders said he and owner Glen Taylor have “no timeline” for naming Adelman’s successor. Because this departure isn’t a complete surprise, names of possible replacements have been floated; Iowa State (and former Wolves guard) Fred Hoiberg; Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, a Saunders friend; current Washington assistant coach Sam Cassell, another former Minnesota player; oft-coveted Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, based on alleged friction with the Bulls front office; and Saunders himself.

Prior to his return this season to Minnesota, Saunders had been the winningest coach in Wolves history — 411-326 from 1995-2005 — and later coached in Detroit and Washington, bumping his career mark to 638-526 (.548), with 11 playoff appearances.

The next Wolves coach, whoever it is, will face a top priority of featuring — and courting — All-Star forward Kevin Love, the team’s best player. Love, an MVP-caliber performer (25.9 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists per game in 2013-14), can opt out of his contract after next season to become a free agent.


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  2. patrickmarc says:

    EXCELLENT coach.

  3. jdub455 says:

    One of the best coaches ever! One of the reasons why I was so excited for the wolves. He had an offensive system which was simple yet very effective (if only he had the right mesh of players). What a waste that rubio and the gang did not took advantage of it. I’ll never forget those Sacramento days though, with cweb, jdub, bibby, vlade, peja, etc… One of the best era in NBA history. It made me watch NBA basketball again after MJ left.

  4. ksmit says:

    Adelman was a great coach, they should go after George Karl next.

  5. adeleman thanks says:

    Great coach and should be a HOF. But I feel a lot of the wolves woes was due to adeleman’s refusal to play his young players. If only he played guys like Dieng and Shabazz earlier in the season he could have had that bench production he was looking for. Oh well, I’m glad he’ll still be helping the wolves out. Just hope the wolves focus on developing their guys and playing D. Thanks for alteast making the wolves respectable again coach rick! All the best

  6. big_hoss says:

    congrats to coach Adelman for a fantastic career and he should have a ring from that 2002 sac kings team from that screwjob in the west finals against the lakers . The wolves better do everything they can to hold onto kevin love , he is HANDS DOWN the 3rd best player in the league and probably the best power forward to come into the league since dirk .

  7. Kome the Black Dumba says:

    His King’s team was fun to watch but screwed by the refs and the houston’s team was doomed by injuries. Still, what a run! As the team’s adviser now, hope he can have a say on who the next coach will be. I think George Karl will be a good coach for love and rubio.

  8. GOLA says:

    The Lakers should bring Adelman out of retirement. Bryant and Adelman can revive the championship aspiration of the Lakers. The Lakers can look at Nikola Vucevic, Reggie Jackson and Giannis Antetokounmpo if they intend to rebuild.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You’ve done well, I wish you the best.

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