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The health of wife Mary Kay, left, will be a big factor in whether coach Rick Adelman returns to the Timberwolves next year. But the team, which still has question marks, needs his expertise and credibility.

MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com ,

Souhan: Wolves can't afford to let Adelman leave

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN
  • Star Tribune
  • April 20, 2013 - 11:26 PM

Maybe Rick Adelman will decide that he can’t spend more time away from his ailing wife, that winters spent in airports and hotels can’t work in this new version of his life, but the Minnesota Timberwolves owe it to themselves and their illogically loyal fans to persuade him to stay.

Adelman is the Wolves’ symbol of NBA relevance, a likely Hall of Fame coach who allows Minnesotans to imagine better days are ahead. Without him, the franchise will again be adrift and untethered, subject to the whims of the incompetent.

The owner, Glen Taylor, may sell. The personnel boss, David Kahn, may be cast off. The star, Kevin Love, spent much of this season displaying little interest in what should be his team. The key roster upgrade, Chase Budinger, may not return.

Just six months ago, the Wolves looked like a playoff team, like a team with a future. Now, after yet another year of injuries and bad karma, they look like the same star-crossed franchise that has failed to win a playoff series in 23 of its 24 years of existence.

Lose Adelman, and Budinger may not re-sign. Lose Adelman, and Andrei Kirilenko may have had enough of the NBA, and Alexey Shved loses his mentor. Lose Adelman, and the Wolves’ primary connection to NBA credibility becomes just another former employee with bad memories.

Taylor and Kahn have made one good joint decision, and it was coaxing Adelman from retirement. My information is that Adelman accepted the job only upon the condition that he be given the final say in personnel decisions, relegating Kahn to the role of ambassador and gofer. Kahn did, it must be said, do well in persuading Adelman to take the job, and Ricky Rubio to leave Spain for our beautiful tundra.

What are the odds of Taylor, perhaps with Kahn’s input, making another quality coaching hire? What are the odds of another revered coach wanting the job? About the same as Wolves fans enjoying the Warriors-Nuggets series, with Steph Curry starring for one team and Ty Lawson for the other.

Adelman is the key domino in the Wolves’ future, and we all know how dominos fall at Target Center. They don’t just topple other dominos; they crush hope.

Maybe there’s nothing Taylor and Kahn can do to bring Adelman back. Maybe his wife’s health will be the only factor that matters.

If there is a chance of persuading Adelman to return, Taylor needs to give him the proverbial blank check. He needs to accept that Adelman may need to miss games, even road trips. He needs to understand that Adelman’s assistant coaches are probably better head coaching candidates than he’d be able to hire.

I’d rather have top Adelman assistant Terry Porter coaching in Adelman’s absences than Taylor interviewing people less accomplished than Porter.

We all tend to overdramatize the mistakes sports executives have made. Remember when the Twins were doomed because they lost Travis Lee, or when they passed on Mark Prior?

Remember when the Vikings were doomed by the Herschel Walker trade, then made the playoffs two years later?

There are few fatal mistakes in sports. Taylor losing Adelman would be close, though. Too close for a franchise that needs every ounce of Adelman’s expertise and credibility as it crawls toward relevance.

 

Jim Souhan can been heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10-noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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