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Thursday May 24, 2007 8:48 AM


New Man in Town


Rockets select Adelman to replace Van Gundy as the franchise's coach


Damien Pierce
Rockets.com Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- Rick Adelman was residing in Portland, waiting roughly a year for the right job to lure him back to the NBA sideline.

On Wednesday, he didn't have any doubts that he had found it.

The Rockets hired Adelman as the franchise's new coach, introducing the 16-year coaching veteran during a press conference at Toyota Center.

After sitting out the 2005-06 season following an eight-year run in Sacramento, Adelman passed up on other job opportunites to return to the bench with a team that he believes can make a deep postseason run.

"I knew jobs were going to come up," Adelman said. "This was the best job. They had everything I was looking for – good ownership, good organization and a good team with good talent. Everything was there. It was pretty easy. If I was going to coach, this was an ideal situation."

Adelman, 60, will be taking over a franchise that hasn't won a playoff series since reaching the Western Conference finals in 1997.

Despite winning 52 games this past season with a team centered around Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, the Rockets were eliminated in the first round by the Utah Jazz. Nearly two weeks after that latest playoff setback, the Rockets dismissed Jeff Van Gundy. The coach had been unable to lead the Rockets into the second round during his four seasons in Houston.

The franchise is turning to Adelman in hopes that he'll have more postseason success.

"We're lucky to get him," Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said. "Hopefully, we will be able to add more talent during the offseason. Hopefully, our teams will be better in the playoffs. And hopefully, we can get much deeper in the playoffs. That's my expectation."

Adelman, the only candidate that the Rockets interviewed for the job, brings a winning background and an offensive-minded philosophy to Houston.

With coaching stops at Portland, Golden State and Sacramento, Adelman has a 752-481 career record and has guided his teams to 14 playoff appearances in 16 seasons. He also has the highest winning percentage (.610) among coaches without an NBA championship, twice leading Portland to the NBA Finals.

Adelman said his first task will be to begin finding a staff and evaluating the roster.

"We were looking for a coach that can take us to the next level," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "We were looking for a balanced approach and Coach Adelman provides that. If you look at balanced approach and experience, Coach Adelman stands out."

Adelman is expected to change the pace of the Rockets.

While the Rockets were a grind-it-out, half-court team under Van Gundy, Adelman is known for developing some of the league's most potent offenses. Sacramento was the league's highest scoring team three times during Adelman's eight seasons, relying on a Princeton-style offense at the end of his time with the Kings. When he was in Portland, Adelman relied more on an up-and-down game with Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter leading the way.

Adelman said that he doesn't see any reason why he won't be able to push the tempo with the Rockets, even with 7-foot-6 center Yao Ming running the floor.

"We had Vlade Divac in Sacramento and he's not a speedster," Adelman said. "Watching Yao, it's not how fast you are, it's their intent to get up and down the court. There's no reason that you can't. We're just trying to get into something quicker. We don't want to walk it down and call a play. We want to get into something quick and make the defense react. I don't see why we can't do that."

Adelman isn't anticipating changing things only for Yao.

The coach compared star Tracy McGrady to Drexler and said that he wanted to make things easier for the seven-time All-Star. Much of Houston's offense was generated through McGrady last season, with the guard often handling the ball on the perimeter and having to attack the lane to create open shots for his teammates.

Adelman didn't specify what tweaks he would make, but said they are coming.

"I want to try to do some things that make it easier," Adelman said. "I don't want defenses just locked onto him all the time. You can elevate his game, you can find ways to get him the ball in spots that maybe he hasn't had before. That's going to be my job."

The hiring of Adelman could bring Bonzi Wells back to Houston. The swingman has a two-year contract with the team, but can opt out as a free agent.

During his first season with the Rockets, Wells played in only 28 games because of injuries and a difference of opinion with Van Gundy. Wells ended the season on the inactive roster after failing to show up for a game.

Adelman, who coached Wells in Sacramento, is interested in bringing Wells back into the fold.

"When I had him, he was ready to play and he's going to make his impression on the game," Adelman said. "I would love to see him come back. If he can come back, he'll find a way to be successful here."

Before choosing Adelman, Alexander said the coach's name surfaced as a leading candidate after talking with Dennis Lindsey, the team's vice president of basketball operations/player personnel, and Morey. The owner then became convinced that Adelman was the right fit for the team after a conversation with Drexler over lunch.

"He went on and one for 20 minutes," Alexander said. "He said that (Adelman) would be the perfect fit for this team. After that, I said, 'We can't lose this guy. We got to get him.' He's the perfect candidate."

Adelman is sure that he's found the perfect fit to return to the sideline as well.

"This is a great opportunity," he said.