Coaching Staff Key To Wolves Success In 2013-14
Wolves Coaching Staff Key To Team's Success In 2013-14
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A lot of conversations about the Wolves’ chances to end their nine-year playoff drought surround the pieces on the court, and rightfully so. The Wolves have an All-Star power forward in Kevin Love that’s widely considered one of the best at his position, they have a point guard in Ricky Rubio that keeps fans on their toes every time he touches the ball, and they re-signed their center Nikola Pekovic to a long-term deal ensuring opposing bigs will be physically punished at Target Center for the foreseeable future.
To top it off, they added a collection of pieces around those three—including Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer—who addressed shooting and defensive needs, respectively, necessary to compete in the Western Conference.
But one of the biggest reasons for the continued improvement and subsequent belief in this team over the past two years has been at the top. Coach Rick Adelman and his assistants have instilled their own blueprint for what the Timberwolves should look like and how they should play, and that philosophy has been supported by new President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders. If you look at the 17 players who were on the team’s roster in 2010-11, only Love and Pekovic remain (Brewer technically was on the roster, too, but was traded in February 2011 before returning this offseason).
They’ve instilled values in this team that mirror the type of players they were and the type of coaches they’ve been during their time in the NBA. Adelman is no stranger to success, having logged his 1,000th career win last April. During his time in Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and now Minnesota, he’s had something that goes a long way: The respect and belief of his players and his coaching staff.
This is no accident. Adelman seems to instill a level of trust in those around him that helps feed their success. His coaching staff is delegated in-practice responsibilities that reflect their strengths, and the assistants rotate on a game-by-game basis which person scouts the upcoming opponent. They then all meet in a room and present their notes and strategies. Adelman has the final say, but the assistants have a large say in how the Wolves prepare for the upcoming contest.
It’s a big reason why there are so many recurring names in his storied career—a 23-year journey that includes 11 different 50-win seasons, 16 playoff appearances and two Western Conference championships.
It’s why players like Terry Porter, who starred for Adelman in Portland, took roles as an assistant under Adelman in Sacramento and Minnesota. T.R. Dunn spent time with Adelman as an assistant with the Kings, Rockets and Wolves dating back to 2004. Jack Sikma joined on in 2007 in Houston and came with to Minnesota. His son, David Adelman, was just promoted from player development coach to assistant after years of displaying through his attention to detail and ability to relate to players that, as Dante Cunningham agreed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And Bobby Jackson, once a Sixth Man of the Year for Adelman in Sacramento, rejoined his old coach this season in Minnesota to help learn more about what it takes to become a successful coach in this league.
He helps players and coaches succeed, and he gives them the opportunity to grow.
“It’s terrific for me,” Dunn said last season. “Coach gives you responsibilities. You’re part of the team.”
And that’s just half the story. The other half is the loyalty players have toward him, which makes them want to reconnect with him down the road if possible.
Two current roster members are perfect examples. Chase Budinger and Kevin Martin have each played for Adelman on different teams—Budinger in Houston and Minnesota and Martin in Sacramento, Houston and Minnesota. Both thrived in Adelman’s offense because of the way they play the game—they are athletic wing players who can hit the 3 and create motion away from the ball within his corner system. There is a comfort level there, not only with the style of play but also with the style of coaching coming from the bench.
Not to mention all the others, some still playing on other rosters around the league, that stepped up and poured out reasons why they enjoyed playing for Adelman so much during interviews last year leading up to his 1,000th victory.
“He lets you play out there,” Budinger said. “He lets you make mistakes and keeps you in there and gives you confidence on the court. He brings out the best in every player.”
That stems from the staff, too. The assistants all have the same demeanor as Adelman in that they believe in one another, the work for each other and they interact with players in the same manner.
And each has a different, unique skill that fits in well with conveying their message and strategy to the players. For instance:
Among the assistant and player development coaches, the Wolves have 30 years of NBA coaching experience heading into this year. They also have a combined 57 seasons, 37 postseason runs and nine All-Star Game appearances as players in the league.
Add in a head coach with 1,002 career victories and Saunders with 638 more coaching wins, and this Wolves staff has the practical experience to help this revamped team take the next step in 2013-14.
The practical experience, the vision and the leadership skills make this a coaching staff, as a whole, that is important to the success of this team this winter. This staff has never had season in Minnesota under normal circumstances—its first year included no offseason leading in due to the lockout coupled with an injury-riddled final two months, and last year the team lost 341 man games to injury stretching start to finish.
This year, with a healthy roster, this team could get the chance to show its full potential. And if it does, the coaching staff leading the way will be a pivotal part of the equation.