Adelman answers question: Why here?

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2011 - 1:09 PM

At his first Wolves news conference, the well-respected NBA coach explained the draw of a new team and a new challenge.

Ten weeks after they fired their coach, the Timberwolves on Wednesday officially introduced a new one who believes in many of the same basic basketball philosophies as the old one did.

Whether you call it a "triangle" or "corner" offense, Rick Adelman is a proponent of the same sort of flowing motion offense that Kurt Rambis preferred.

But this time Wolves President David Kahn -- who with owner Glen Taylor interviewed seven candidates in search of a coach more committed to embracing fast-break basketball than the last one -- is getting more than a probable future Hall of Fame coach who owns a .605 winning percentage in 20 seasons as a NBA head coach.

He's also getting a 65-year-old man whose words and résumé suggest he will tailor his system to fit the Timberwolves' many highly drafted pieces -- as painfully young and possibly mismatched as they are -- and not the other way around.

"I have to adjust to this talent that fits it best," he said, "and not force a system on it."

He brings that sparkly career winning percentage and instant credibility to a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since it beat Adelman's Sacramento team in Game 7 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals at Target Center.

He is known largely as a coach who likes big men who can pass -- Kevin Love, anyone? -- in a position away from the basket. He is known as that largely because he possessed Vlade Divac and Chris Webber in Sacramento.

"Well, we played like that because those were two pretty good people to put the ball in their hands," he said.

At his next stop in Houston, Adelman tweaked his strategy after he lost stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady to injuries and compensated by starting 6-6 Chuck Hayes -- a full foot shorter than Yao -- at center.

Adelman left Houston last spring after four seasons primarily because management wanted to dictate coaching-staff changes.

He accepted the Wolves job two weeks ago primarily because he took the Rockets job in 2007 expecting to win a title with Yao and McGrady and left town feeling rewarded by adapting with a makeshift roster that he guided to winning records the past two seasons.

"That's what I've got to find out here," Adelman said. "Who's the leader? Who are the go-to guys? Who's going to accept responsibility defensively? Those are the things we figured out those last two years in Houston. That's what I found so gratifying there."

Three months ago, almost nobody in or close to the NBA believed Adelman would accept such a daunting job as rebuilding these young Wolves.

That list included Adelman himself.

Instead, the man who talked with the Lakers about their open coaching job before they chose Mike Brown in May chatted with his wife, his family, Kahn and even himself throughout an eventful summer that included two big family weddings that for a time placed his mind elsewhere.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought it could be a good situation," said Adelman, who could not talk specifically about his players because of NBA rules pertaining to its current labor lockout. "Nothing is given in this business. You never know what's going to be out there. I always felt the next job I got after Houston was probably going to be my last one.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought this was as good an opportunity right now as I could get. I still wanted to coach. I'd like to try to build something here. I just feel I can do this. It felt like it was a great challenge."

Kahn said Adelman never directly told him no during the two-month search process. But he said he knew there were times Adelman needed to be left alone while the coach decided whether he wanted to coach again so soon.

Kahn and the Wolves remained patient during a summer in which there's still no end in sight for the labor lockout that began July 1.

Ultimately, Adelman agreed to a four-year contract believed to be worth more than $20 million that gives each side an option for that final year.

Adelman said the lengthy process was because of his own issues and he called "completely false" a recent YahooSports column that suggested Taylor had to close the deal to sign him because Adelman has a long-standing dislike for Kahn dating to the 1980s when Kahn was a sportswriter in Portland and Adelman coached for the Trail Blazers.

Kahn called the notion laughable, and Adelman said: "Certainly, no one convinced me. I wouldn't be here if that was the case. Everybody tells me how tough a job this will be. Why would I add to it? I think we'll be able to work fine together with Glen. Why would I want to come to a place and work with somebody that I didn't like?"

Adelman said he doesn't want to have a "bunch of power or a big voice" in personnel decisions.

"I've never been like that," he said. "Some coaches spend all their time worrying about the personnel they don't have. I've always felt my job is to coach the guys I have. I just want a situation where we're all after the same thing."

Kahn said the two-month search process revealed two things: He called Adelman "clearly" the most qualified candidate on a list that also included Don Nelson, Sam Mitchell, Larry Brown and Mike Woodson. He also said Adelman was the best of the bunch at immediately making a team better.

"Rick has demonstrated through his career the ability to adapt and tweak and tinker with the team based on his personnel," Kahn said. "I think he's willing to do whatever it takes based on the roster, and that's something we need right now. We have, in some respects, an unconventional roster: young players, maybe too many players of some type, not enough players of another type.

"He's proven time and again that he can deal with pretty much anything. That track record I keep coming back to provides a lot of confidence for all of us that he can handle pretty much anything thrown at him."

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