Adelman's Winning Formula

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

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A man with 253 more victories than the entire Timberwolves franchise will grace the sidelines for Minnesota and lead a group of talented and young players next season.

On Tuesday, the Wolves announced the team reached an agreement in principle on a contract with Rick Adelman to become the organization's 10th head coach in team history.

It’s hard to contain optimism and sheer excitement surrounding the new hire as Adelman arrives with a substantial NBA resume, including 945 career wins (8th all-time), two NBA Finals appearances, four Western Conference Finals, and four division titles. The 65-year old has generated rapid turnarounds and championship contenders in his years guiding the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and most recently the Houston Rockets.

Prior to the Adelman hire, Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn laid out a specific criteria for his second hire in the Twin Cities. Kahn looked for an experienced head man with a history of winning and an up-tempo offensive scheme that suits a roster chalk filled with high-flying athletes. To gain a better understanding of Adelman’s abilities as a head coach, one must dive into the history books to examine his work.

In 1989, Adelman took the reins for Portland in the middle of the season and led the Blazers to a playoff appearance. Armed with a bona fide star in Clyde Drexler, Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey, and Buck Williams, Portland reclaimed its Rip City pride by ripping off 59 wins en route to the 1990 NBA Finals. According to, the 90-91 Blazers averaged 114.2 points per game and ranked 4th in the pace factor. The following season, Portland enjoyed a better year with 63 wins but suffered a loss to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Once again in 1992, Adelman’s bunch was a model of consistency and reached the NBA Finals before falling to the dynastic Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan.

Almost 10 years after starting his career in Portland, Adelman joined the Sacramento Kings, a franchise with minimal success at the time of his hire. The California native worked his magic rather quickly, vaulting the Kings to the playoffs and within one game of another Finals appearance in 2002. The loss was a controversial Game 7 contest against the Lakers in one of the most memorable Western Conference Finals in history. Sacramento’s attack was an artistic style of offense featuring post players with high-level passing skills and array of shooters that boosted the Kings to the third best points per game average and first in pace of play. Adelman’s Kings exuded textbook team basketball with his players constantly moving without the rock, executing near unstoppable pick-and-roll sets, and unselfish play that led to positive chemistry on the floor.

Despite numerous injury-marred seasons in Houston, Adelman posted a 193-135 record, the highest winning percentage in franchise history. 7-6 center Yao Ming never seemed to maintain health, which forced Adelman to quickly adjust his lineup and style in each of his four years for the Rockets. The ability to squeeze every ounce of talent from Houston’s roster and find success in an adverse environment certainly made Adelman the top candidate in Minnesota.

Four times Adelman has been runner-up for the NBA Coach of the Year, he is one of five head coaches to tally 60-plus wins with two different teams, and most importantly, the Wolves new signal caller has reached the NBA playoffs in 16 of his 20 seasons as a head coach. Adelman's long list of achievements and tremendous respect around the league from players and coaches made him the top choice for the Minnesota front office.

While the future is difficult to predict and the success of a head coach can be circumstantial, Minnesota landed an elite head coach to help lift a team with a talented nucleus back into playoff contention. A press conference is expected at a later date to officially introduce Adelman in Minneapolis.

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