Adelman's Demeanor Big Reason For Success, Respect




Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Thunder guard Kevin Martin had one of the more telling quotes this year about the type of respect coach Rick Adelman receives from his players. Adelman was Martin’s coach during his first two years in the league with Sacramento from 2004-06. Adelman left after the 2006 season, took a year off and landed in Houston, where he spent the next four seasons.

In February 2010, Martin was part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Rockets and reunited him with Adelman. Despite having three of the best statistical seasons of his career in the years since Adelman left Sacramento, Martin didn’t think twice about making the move.

“I couldn’t have packed my bags faster when I found out I was going to Houston to play for Rick Adelman again,” Martin said.

That, in a nutshell, is Adelman’s imprint on this league.

Adelman became the eighth coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 wins this year, achieving the feat in an April 6 win over the Detroit Pistons at Target Center. He did it in front of a fan base that has watched firsthand how Adelman has maneuvered to revive the Timberwolves franchise, bringing inspiring play and a knack for in-game adjustments that has Minnesota viewed as an up-and-coming team—barring injuries—in the coming years.

He once said this year he didn’t know what the term “players' coach” truly meant. Listening to how current and former players, coaches and peers described him over the past year, it seems as though his own description is a pretty spot-on definition.

Adelman and his coaching staff understand each player’s strengths and weaknesses, and they mold their game plans accordingly—sometimes on an in-game basis. Orchestrating moves entrenched in a deep knowledge for the game, Adelman helped Minnesota win more than 30 games in a season for the first time in franchise history without Kevin Garnett being on the roster.

That’s not a coincidence.

Adelman took over as Portland’s head coach in 1989, promptly brought the Blazers to two NBA Finals appearances in his first four years, and was off and running as one of the most innovative offensive coaches of his generation.

He and his staff transformed Sacramento into a perennial postseason threat in the early 2000s, and that filtered over into a successful four-year run in Houston before taking over the Wolves in 2011. Adelman’s record itself is reason alone to respect his achievements in the league, but in talking with personalities across the NBA that have worked with him or faced him over the past two decades, you get the feeling that numbers are only the beginning of the impact Adelman left at each stop he made.

“I think they respect he’s a great teacher, he has great patience,” Pat Riley, the Heat’s team president and fellow member of the coaching 1,000 wins club. “He has great patience. He understands the good and the bad of it. It’s not all negative all the time. There’s a lot of constructive criticism there. He allows you to play the game.”

Former assistant Elston Turner, who worked with Adelman both in Sacramento and Houston, said Adelman’s communication skills are sometimes overlooked. He’s got a quiet demeanor and rarely if ever yells, but that’s a facet of his delivery players appreciate. Sometimes his message is delivered with humor, but there’s always a message involved. And when you take his quiet demeanor and couple it with the respect he’s gained through his success over the years, players stop and listen when he’s speaking.

Just ask current members of the Wolves’ roster.

Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said Adelman is one of the best coaches he’s ever had. He marvels at the way Adelman understands the game and is able to convey that to his players. Adelman has a vision for how his team can succeed, and he’s willing to adapt and adjust that vision based on the type of personnel strengths he has on the roster.

Forward Chase Budinger agrees. He entered the league under Adelman in Houston and, like Martin before him, was excited to rejoin Adelman in Minnesota after the Wolves traded their 18th overall pick in the 2012 Draft for him last June.

More than just the Xs and Os, Budinger said Adelman’s character stands out.

“He’s such a great guy,” Budinger said. “He puts the team in front of himself.”

Shane Battier, who played for Adelman in Houston, said players get a sense of ownership in the team when they play for him. He said some coaches want to put their own stamp on the team, but Adelman made everyone feel like they have their own stakes.

Reaching 1,000 wins puts Adelman in an incredibly elite category. And save for Gregg Popovich, who currently has 905 wins in San Antonio, there isn’t another active headman with this incredibly exclusive club in sight. Behind Popovich, the next closest active coach is Doc Rivers in Boston at 587.

Not everyone gets to the 1,000 wins club the same way. Adelman’s road took him to five organizations, meeting a lot of new faces along the way. But there’s a common denominator in all of those people he’s met over the past two decades—Rick Adelman has the patience, the demeanor and the teaching skills to get the most out of those around him.

“He lets you play out there,” Budinger said. “He lets you make mistakes and keeps you in there and gives you confidence out here on the court. He brings the best out of every player.”


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