Reusse: Wolves players respect Adelman for staying away

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2013 - 11:46 AM

The Wolves coach remains with his ailing wife, and details have been scarce during his absence.

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Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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There was a feature story in the Houston Chronicle on Rick Adelman in September 2007, before he started his tenure as the coach of the Rockets. Jonathan Fiegen's lead read:

"To Rick Adelman, it has always been about basketball and family.

"Basketball is family. Family is basketball."

It is not a surprise that when a choice was forced on Adelman earlier this month, family won in a layup.

Smiling is not an Adelman strong point. Yet, regulars at Target Center have noticed that Adelman -- now the Timberwolves coach -- could be relied on for a full-blown grin before tipoff, when he would find his wife, Mary Kay, in the crowd and give a wave.

"When he was in Houston, I remember seeing Rick and his wife walking in the corridor, holding hands," a Timberwolves employee said. "She means everything to him."

Mary Kay fell ill and was hospitalized in the Twin Cities on Jan. 7. Adelman has been with her since. He missed his ninth consecutive game Wednesday night when the Wolves played Brooklyn at Target Center.

The Adelmans have been very protective of information on Mary Kay's condition. R.J. Adelman, a member of his father's coaching staff, declined a request for an interview-- not about specifics of his mother's illness, but to answer background questions on his parents' relationship.

There are six children: Kathy, Laura, Caitlin, R.J., David and Patrick. The Adelmans adopted Caitlin and Patrick in 1993 when Rick's sister-in-law died in a car accident.

That tells you about the importance of family. So does the fact Adelman has met with his team once -- before a practice at Target Center -- in the 16 days since Mary Kay was hospitalized.

"It's hard to replace his wisdom as a coach, but this is more important," guard Luke Ridnour said. "To see what he's doing, what he is as a family man ... you have even more respect for him."

What has it meant not to have Adelman to prepare the team and to make in-game decisions?

"He's a Hall of Fame coach," Ridnour said. "Fortunately, he put together such a good coaching staff, that we're still OK there. The coaches are doing a good job for us."

Dante Cunningham is in his first season with the Wolves after traveling through Portland, Charlotte and Memphis in his three previous seasons.

The expectation of many when Cunningham arrived was that he would play behind both Kevin Love and Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall draftee in 2011, at power forward.

When Love was hurt in the preseason, Adelman went with what he saw on the court and gave heavier minutes to Cunningham. the journeyman, over the elite draft choice.

"[Adelman] knows how to use his players ... how to use his team," Cunningham said. "He puts you in the right spot to have the best chance to succeed."

Adelman is 66. What's the challenge for a coach of that age in dealing with players four decades younger?

"He knows how to communicate," Cunningham said. "He's clear in everything he tells you."

Cunningham added that he didn't feel that things were "much different" with Terry Porter serving as head coach, and with Jack Sikma, Bill Bayno and T.R. Dunn as his veteran assistants.

"Rick Adelman still watches the games and talks to the coaches regularly," Cunningham said. "We still take his insight into games."

The Timberwolves were beaten 91-83 by a hot Brooklyn team. The Nets are 12-2 since P.J. Carlesimo replaced the fired Avery Johnson. The Wolves fell to 2-7 (and 17-22 overall) since Adelman stepped away to be with Mary Kay.

Obviously, the astounding run of injuries and illness has more to do with the defeats than anything Adelman could have done to reverse the .222 winning percentage since Jan. 8.

Adelman and Mary Kay have been married for 37 years. The wedding took place between the end of his NBA playing career and his acceptance of the coaching job at Chemeketa J.C. in Salem, Ore.

It wasn't until 1984 when he made it to the NBA as an assistant to Jack Ramsay with the Trail Blazers. Portland has been the family headquarters since, with the six children and now seven grandkids.

Rick and Mary Kay have had that big family and basketball. They also have had each other, and they still do, constantly.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. • preusse@startribune.com

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