Adelman's Record Speaks For Itself, But His Peers Do The Talking

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Wolves coach Rick Adelman reached 1,000 victories in 1,703 games, the fifth fastest coach to reach that milestone in NBA history. He did it faster than the two winningest coaches in league history, Don Nelson (1,790) and Lenny Wilkens (1,838). And if you ask around the league, you’ll find plenty of players and coaches, executives and peers, who emphatically express their appreciation for Adelman’s style, demeanor and coaching ability.

“Coach Adelman is one of the best,” Shane Battier said. “Everywhere he’s gone, he’s won.”

Battier played for Adelman for parts of four seasons in Houston, and he was part of that memorable 2008 run in which the Rockets recorded 22 straight wins. And it’s high praise hearing a veteran like Battier speak that highly of a coach, considering he once played for the great Mike Krzyzewski at Duke and is currently playing for an organization run by Pat Riley.

[Related Content: Rick Adelman's 1,000th win in photos.]

But Battier is just one of many who came forward as Adelman neared 1,000 wins—which he reached in Saturday’s 107-101 victory over the Pistons at Target Center—ranging from former and current players to Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers like Riley and Jack Ramsay.

Ramsay hired Adelman as an assistant 30 years ago, and over All-Star Weekend in Houston he said Adelman reaching 1,000 wins came as no surprise to him.

The same goes for Riley.

“He truly is simply one of the great coaches in the history of the game,” Riley said. “I hated coaching against him, because I knew he was going to pick us apart.”

So what makes Adelman so special?

For one, he plays a player-first, team-concept game. Adelman’s players enjoy the freedom to succeed, and he’s had enough All-Stars in Portland and Sacramento alone to prove it, but they also play within a flexible system he alters to fit his personnel.

The system he’s used over his career is still there in parts, but during injury-plagued seasons in Houston he adjusted his schemes based on whether or not All-Stars like Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady were healthy. Sometimes things changed from game to game based on availability. The same can be said here in Minnesota. With the personnel being adjusted due to injury and a point guard-heavy back court available, he’s tailor game plans to incorporate pick-and-rolls as a primary source for offensive fluidity.

Adelman isn’t afraid to adjust and change on the fly. It’s why he’s become one of the premier in-game coaches in the NBA.

“He’s able to get the most out of his players,” Wolves assistant T.R. Dunn said. “And it’s fun for the guys. They enjoy playing his style.”

[Related Content: Jack Ramsay’s tough decision helped start two 1,000-win careers.]

But don’t just take a coach’s word for it. The players will vouch for Adelman, themselves.

Chase Budinger, who played for Adelman in Houston and here in Minnesota, described him as a players-first coach—a guy whose track record speaks for itself. J.J. Barea said the young players on the Wolves’ roster don’t know how good they have it with Adelman—a coach who simply asks you to go out there and work hard. Barea said he gives players the ultimate confidence to succeed.

Kevin Martin played for Adelman in Sacramento and Houston. He gives Adelman credit for believing in him, especially when he was a rookie and wasn’t put on the postseason roster. He told Martin it wouldn’t be the last time he played in the league and gave him the confidence to work through a humbling moment in his career. Martin then took on the role of the scout Ray Allen during Kings’ practices throughout that first round series in Seattle and made a big step toward becoming a full-time player in the NBA.

“He has touched a lot of lives in the NBA basketball community,” Martin said. “Just to be part of that is something I wish everyone in the NBA could be part of at one point in their career.”

Adelman brought Portland to two NBA Finals—coming two wins way from an NBA championship in 1992. He brought the Kings to eight playoffs in eight seasons, and put together a stretch of 22 wins straight wins in Houston with an injury-plagued roster—something Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said should be a celebrated achievement in NBA history because of its length and its difficulty through injuries.

Spoelstra grew up in the Portland area and followed the Blazers closely, especially as a student at the University of Portland during Adelman’s two runs to the finals. He gives Adelman credit for helping motivate him to become the coach he is today—an NBA champion who is seeking his second straight title this year in Miami.

“You know what you get with Rick, and since I knew him when I was a kid, he’s the same guy right now,” Spoelstra said. “He has great morals, character, great family life. He’s able to separate family outside of basketball and coaching, and at the same time blend the two of them together. He’s actually a great role model for myself.”

Adelman’s track record speaks for itself. But it doesn’t need to. The rest of the league does the talking for him.

“He’s one of a kind,” Martin said. “He’s a coach that maximizes every effort out of his players, and he’s one of those coaches you love to wake up in the morning and go to the gym and play for.”

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