The Timberwolves and their coach left Sacramento late Thursday night for possibly the last time.
Rick Adelman once upon a time called home the arena that many forever will remember as ARCO and whether he returns to coach again next season, the Kings and the NBA might not.
The NBA will decide the matter at its Board of Governors meetings next month. That’s when the 30 team owners will decide whether to approve the team’s sale to a group that will move it to Seattle next season or instead bless one final-hour attempt to build a new arena in Sacramento with a new ownership group that will keep the Kings in town.
Sacramento’s bid to keep its team was strengthened Thursday afternoon when a California billionaire software developer — and Golden State minority owner Vivek Ranadive — emerged as the new lead investor who could boost the city’s counter-offer closer to the $341 million deal the Seattle group already has struck with the Kings’ current owners, the Maloof brothers.
Ranadive confirmed his participation via Twitter on Thursday, the same day Sacramento city officials surpassed a self-imposed deadline to finalize a term sheet that will build that new ownership group a fancy new downtown arena.
Adelman coached eight seasons in Sacramento, the last in 2006. But anyone who watches arena and team employees greet him every time he returns coaching another team knows that a piece of him stayed there after he coached Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Peja Stojakovic through five 50-win seasons.
“It’s a shame,” he said, “because we had so many good memories here.”
Back then, the sold-out arena’s lower-level wooden floors reverberated with joyous foot-stomping that made it perhaps the loudest place in the league.
A new $400 million facility obviously would offer all the most modern revenue streams, but would never recapture the soul of the old ARCO Arena during those memorable years.
“Obviously they need a new building here, but to take a team away from the fans that are here, to have it happen the way it happened, it’s just a shame,” Adelman said. “They’re great fans.”
Adelman knows something about great fans: He coached for a decade in Portland, the self-named Rip City and one-team town that loves its Trail Blazers almost unconditionally.
He coached those Blazers to two NBA Finals, losing to Detroit’s “Bad Boys” in 1990 and to Michael Jordan and Chicago two years later.
He coached the Kings as far as the 2002 Western Conference finals before they lost to the Lakers in an unforgettable, gut-wrenching Game 7 loss.
“That was such a special group,” Adelman said. “We had five guys who could all shoot it and pass it. It made putting in an offense really easy. I really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun. We were here eight years and that doesn’t happen often in this league.”
Now there are empty seats at Sleep Train Arena nightly and a fan base that has prepared for the worst.
But as Adelman stood in a darkened arena corridor before Thursday’s game, he sounded like a guy who’ll never forget Sacramento, no matter what happens.
“When we were going through our streak, those fans compared every bit as good to the Portland fans when I was there and Portland fans are pretty special and these people are, too,” Adelman said. “It’s just the way things happen. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. You feel bad for the fans, feel bad for the people in the organization who have worked here all these years if they do move.
“But it’s a shame.”