Proven winner takes challenge

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 13, 2011 - 9:39 AM

The Timberwolves confirmed Tuesday morning they have hired Rick Adelman as their coach.

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Rick Adelman

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The Timberwolves accomplished two things Monday you might never have imagined possible:

With one patient, well-executed move by owner Glen Taylor and basketball president David Kahn, they convinced Rick Adelman to be their next coach and they got Kevin Love to talk more optimistically about his future in Minnesota.

The Timberolves confirmed Tuesday morning that they have hired Adelman.

He agreed to replace the fired Kurt Rambis, more than two months after Adelman likely was first approached about the job. He will lead a team that is thick with young talent but has won a total of 32 games over the past two seasons.

Terms of the deal were not immediately known, but Adelman was believed to have sought a five-year contract worth at least $25 million.

He will be introduced at a Target Center news conference later this week -- where he won't be allowed to discuss the team's players because of the lockout -- after contract details are finalized and the agreement is signed.

An experienced, proven winner in 20 seasons as a NBA head coach, Adelman's .605 career winning percentage is by far the best of the six other candidates interviewed for the job.

He also, perhaps not coincidentally, has a relationship with Love that dates to his junior-high school days in suburban Portland, Ore.

Until Monday, Love promised he was an impartial observer in his team's coaching search, even though he has been to Adelman's home many times and still calls the household's matriarch "Mrs. Adelman."

By Monday afternoon, however, Love admitted he did secretly have a horse in this race and answered "absolutely" when asked if Adelman's presence will impact his decision about signing a contract extension with the Wolves.

Whenever Love was asked last season about his future with the team, he said he would wait and see how the franchise's rebuilding work progressed.

"I always said one of the things we'd have to have is a great coach," said Love, who under the NBA's old labor rules could be a restricted free agent next summer. "Now, we've got a great coach."

Endorsed by Rockets players

After last season, Houston chose not to renew the four-year, $16.25 million contract Adelman signed in 2007, when he accepted the Rockets' job from among other offers because he envisioned a future with the team's inside-outside combination of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.

At the time, he said he still wanted to coach and still believed he could coach. He also noted that three times in his career -- jobs with Portland, Sacramento and Houston -- he inherited a team with talent and succeeded and once took over a Golden State team with little talent and failed.

"I figured it out that talent is pretty important," Adelman told reporters in April.

That fact led many league observers to doubt whether the Wolves had any chance to sign a future Hall of Fame coach who now has reached retirement age and whose family has continued to live in Portland while he coaches elsewhere.

Players Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry lamented Adelman's departure when the Rockets decided to part ways with him. Martin at the time said, "I think we lost one of the greatest coaches of all time." Lowry called Adelman a "great motivator" and "great player's coach" who is "one of the best coaches I've ever had."

Player's coach, but not chummy

Adelman also is known as a coach who emphasizes offense without completely ignoring defense, which was the Wolves' glaring weakness in last year's 17-victory season.

Lowry is playing pickup ball this summer in Houston with Wolves forward Anthony Tolliver.

"It's funny, but Kyle made a comment to me the other day," Tolliver said Monday evening from Houston. "He said, 'If Adelman gets that coaching job, I'd ask for a trade.' I thought he was telling me I should ask for one. Then he said, 'No, no, I love him. I would ask for a trade to go play for him.' I went, 'OK. ... that's good then.' "

Oddly, Adelman is known as a player's coach who, according to one Rockets observer, rarely seems to interact with his players off the court.

"Kyle and other guys who have played for him say he's not someone who's the most personable, happy-go-lucky guy," Tolliver said. "But they say he knows how to coach and he teaches you how to win. That's all I care about. You don't have to be best friends with your coach. I just want him to help us win. I think it'll be a good combination of his veteran leadership with our youthful team that's happy-go-lucky.

"From the beginning, I never wanted a young coach for us, a young team. I wanted a veteran guy who knows how to win."

Love admitted he's "very excited" to play in Adelman's "corner" offense that runs best with a multidimensional big man.

Love said he envisions himself being used much as Adelman employed Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Brad Miller -- big men who could pass, shoot and handle the ball away from the basket -- during his seasons with Sacramento.

Adelman watched nearly every game Love played his senior season at Lake Oswego, Ore., because Adelman's son, Patrick, played on the team.

"We've always had a good relationship," Love said. "Looking back to high school, I always asked myself, 'What does Rick think I need to improve?' I kept asking him for advice whenever I had the chance to talk to him. I always thought it'd be very interesting and intriguing to play under such a well-respected coach who I know well, who has been there and done that.

"He adds credibility to our team. I think he's intrigued by how far he might be able to take a team that is really young but has got a lot of talent. I want to see that, too."

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