1-on-1 with Jerome Kersey
To gain a better perspective on Rick Adelman as a head coach, Wolves editor/writer Jonah Ballow interviewed former Blazers small forward Jerome Kersey. The conversation includes memories from their incredibly successful run in Portland that featured two trips to the Finals.
Listen to the complete interview with Jonah Ballow and Jerome Kersey:
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Jonah Ballow: Welcome to Timberwolves.com, Jonah Ballow here with a special guest - it's Jerome Kersey, former small forward for the Portland Trail Blazers from 1984-1995, and of course he played under head coach Rick Adelman - a special time there in Portland. Thank you so much for your time Jerome. Let's talk about Rick Adelman as a coach, his experience and what he meant as a coach for you there in Portland?
Jerome Kersey: Well, Rick played in this league as a member of the Chicago Bulls and he was a point guard, and then he was an assistant coach for I think my first four years there in Portland. He came in under Jack Ramsay and he was an assistant coach, and also under Mike Schuler. He had an opportunity in those first four years actually - when you work as an assistant coach you work a little more closely with them than the head coach, because they're integrated in drills and everything. All of the guys, including myself, came to really respect and like Rick and his coaching abilities from having that ongoing one-on-one relationship with him at practice, and when it came time for him to actually have a great opportunity to become the head coach in 1987 all of the guys were rooting for Rick to get the head coaching job. Rick was a pretty easy going coach. He expected you to get everything done in practice, so when you got to games we were definitely ready to play. He didn't like to spend a lot of time, like I said, in practice just messing around - get to the point, get through our drills and get it done for the day.
Jonah Ballow: That's interesting stuff and you guys had a quick turnaround when he took over as the head coach and eventually reaching the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 - some really great success up there in the northwest. What was the big difference when Rick Adelman finally took over as head coach? You guys really took off and of course you had a great cast with (Clyde) Drexler, (Terry) Porter, Buck Williams also there and yourself.
Jerome Kersey: Well, all of us guys we had been together for awhile, myself, Clyde and Terry, and then Duck (Kevin Duckworth) came and he had been there for a few years, and then the extra added piece that we needed was Buck Williams coming in as a starter at the power forward. That gave us a very strong team - a guy with a lot of experience at a very valuable position for us. Like I said, we had been together and it was just right. Rick was the type of coach that you wanted to play hard for, because you wanted him to have success in this league. I just think we all came together and what we expected out of one another we tried to get out of one another for every game, and I think Rick really tried to hammer home this thing that you have to be a team. You play as a team as well as be a team to win in this league, and we didn't reach the top pinnacle, but we were right there a few years playing for it.
Jonah Ballow: From an X's and O's perspective of Rick Adelman head coached teams have always done well on the offensive side of the floor, and you can see the fluid offense with moving parts. You were a big small forward that played that spot and ran the floor, and Drexler as well on the wing there. He's had success on the offensive side of the court as I mentioned - what do you think is the reason for that and why do you think it will be successful in the future here in Minnesota?
Jerome Kersey: Well, Rick he actually let us play. If you could get the ball off the board and kick it up. We had a first break and then we had a secondary break and then we were right into our offense if we were pushing the ball up the court. He actually pushed us - if we can get fast break opportunities then push it up and get the ball up and down the floor - not recklessly, but in a well-trained manner so you don't look like you're throwing it everywhere, but we had the components to do that. Along with that we were a pretty good defensive team also, and that helped convert from the defensive end to the offensive end and doing things like that. Sometimes we would get a little impatient in the offensive end if we had setup, but we got so used to beating people up and down the court, so much like the Lakers used to do to us early on in the 80's, and we kind of took one of their pages and started doing it to other people. Plus, playing very physical defense for a team that's more of a West Coast team.
Jonah Ballow: Absolutely, and Rick Adelman has also been known as a coach who helped some big guys, yourself included, Buck Williams and then with the Sacramento Kings, Chris Webber and a lot of moving parts - putting them near that high post area and getting a lot of movement with your offensive sets. Do you think that's a key component moving forward with this team and trying to help some of the big guys?
Jerome Kersey: Oh yeah, definitely. He'll bring in the right people to fill out his coaching staff. Rick, like I said, is the type of coach that he hates being real stagnate and I know he probably got to a little bit of that in Houston, because of Yao Ming not being a guy that can get up and down the court, but I think he's got some players there that can get up and down the court in Minnesota. They're a younger team, so I think you'll see him try to play an open court under control, like I said, but one open court - a lot of quick hitting things. It's very hard to guard people or keep them off the boards when you can't put bodies on them when you're moving, you can do that when you're stationary. I think you'll see a very good up-tempo with Rick up there in Minnesota utilizing that youth.
Jonah Ballow: Great stuff. Well, finally any memories you have of Rick Adelman? I know he's a fairly stoic guy, but any moments in there in your Finals runs that stand out when you look back at your Blazers history?
Jerome Kersey: Oh there's so many. You hate to point to one and I'm not trying to be vague about the answer, but we had so many great experiences playing at home, on the road and traveling. It's just, like you say, Rick is kind of real stoic, but with Rick exactly what you see is what you get. There's not a lot of moving parts with Rick Adelman. I was surprised he's still in basketball after all of these years, but I think he loves the game, and you'll get a coach who loves the game, and loves to compete every night and I think that's what you need in a young team that's coming up.
Jonah Ballow: Yes, the Wolves fans are ecstatic to hear that and you know what it was a treat for me to speak with you today. I can still remember you in the Dunk Contest, just falling short to Michael Jordan and running that floor there in Portland. I appreciate your time so much and have fun out there in Portland with the Blazers helping them out with some community events.
Jerome Kersey: Ok, thank you. Thanks for having me on and good luck to you all.
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