Rick Adelman and Kevin McHale will meet their former teams in Monday's Timberwolves-Houston game for the first time since Adelman left the Rockets in April after four seasons as their coach and McHale departed in 2009 from the franchise he guided for 14 seasons.
Both have had long, distinguished NBA careers, Adelman for 20 seasons as a head coach who has won 952 career games and McHale for nearly 30 years as a Hall of Fame player, front-office executive and coach.
Rockets guard Chase Budinger has played for both in his young NBA career.
"That's the thing about coaches: They're all different," said Budinger, a third-year player. "The two coaches I've had in the NBA, they're opposites: One's a communicator who likes to talk with players, individually and as a team. The other one barely talked at all. The good thing about both of them is their definitely players' coaches. They do it in different ways, but both definitely are looking for what he can do to help players be successful."
Adelman left the Rockets last spring after his contract expired. The Rockets hired McHale to replace him in May. The Wolves, in turn, hired Adelman in September.
"I love Rick to death," Rockets guard Kyle Lowry said. "We had a good thing going. He was kind of to himself, that's him. ... But with Coach Mac, he's in your face, he's talking to you. He wants to teach you. He wants to be on the floor with you. He wants you to be good and wants to help you learn every possession. Every player, he wants to help."
Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey hired both coaches. He sees as many similarities as differences.
"Both guys have a great feel for the game," he said. "I think if Kevin had chosen the coaching path, he'd obviously be further along. What Rick has been able to accomplish is something very few coaches have. We're all looking up to what he's been able to do."
McHale has the Rockets 9-7 and on a six-game winning streak even though their roster lacks the kind of player he most covets: a guy who can demand a double-team.
The Rockets sought a star big man before the season started, pursuing Nene and Marc Gasol in free agency and making a trade for All-Star Pau Gasol in a three-way deal with New Orleans and the Lakers that the NBA vetoed.
So Houston signed Samuel Dalembert, and on Saturday the big guy blocked six shots on a sprained ankle in a victory over San Antonio at home.
"You know what?" McHale said when asked "What if" about Pau Gasol. "That's neither here nor there. That didn't happen. That, that ain't happening."
The only piece left from the Wolves team McHale constructed as its general manager is fourth-year forward Kevin Love, whom McHale acquired for O.J. Mayo's draft rights in a 2008 draft-night that Wolves fans second-guessed to no end.
Now Love is an All-Star and likely will sign a rich contract extension by Wednesday.
"He's a great player, he's a great guy, too," McHale said. "I like Kevin. He looks really good. I tell you what, I'd like to get on his diet plan."
After playing 13 seasons with the Celtics, McHale retired as a player in 1993, when a good share of the players he now coaches weren't yet in school.
"Surprisingly yes," Morey said when asked if today's players know and appreciate McHale's Hall of Fame playing career. "Players get a knock for not knowing basketball history, but I think we've got smarter players than most teams."