Rick Adelman on Monday finally, unequivocally answered the question whether he really will coach this season by showing up in the flesh and on the job for Timberwolves media day at Target Center.
Right about the same time he won his 1,000th career NBA game last April, Adelman said he wanted to decide his future quickly, in the approaching weeks after he finished a season in which he missed 11 January games while doctors tried to explain and treat his wife Mary Kay’s sudden seizures.
Then he spent almost all summer out of public eye contemplating whether he’d really return to the job, even though he said Monday he always believed he would.
He was back at work for Tuesday’s start of training camp, convinced that doctors in Minnesota and back home in Portland, Ore., have treatment for his wife’s condition under control and certain that at age 67 he still wants to do this.
“It really took quite a long time,” he said. “It’s one of those situations where I said I wanted to make up my mind fairly quick and it’s not a situation where you do that. It’s not something that happens, you operate and it’s over with. It has been a constant process all summer.
“It’s the unknown and I just wanted to be sure. I was pretty sure all along I was coming back — and doing all the things necessary to get ready for it — unless something drastic came up.”
He returns to a team that has just five players still on the roster — and a new front-office decisionmaker — since he accepted the Wolves’ job in September 2011.
On Monday, he talked publicly for the first time after staying silent all summer about new boss Flip Saunders — who is a coach himself moving into upper management — along with the remade roster. Saunders added Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and brought back Nikola Pekovic and Chase Budinger to the Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio foundation that convinced Adelman to take the job in the first place two years ago.
“Like any situation, you go on with your life at this point and this job, like a lot of jobs, you have to put your full energy into it,” he said. “I feel really good where we are as an organization. When I came here two years, I was trying to see if we couldn’t change the culture and get things turned around in a positive direction.”
A coach as his boss
His first season as Timberwolves didn’t start until after Christmas, shortened to a truncated training camp and 66-game season by a labor lockout that lasted two months. His second season was interrupted seemingly at every turn by significant injuries to Love, Budinger as well as newly signed Brandon Roy and his January family absence.
“I really thought last year we were on that direction and then everything just went backwards,” Adelman said. “But we’ve added some people this year, and I’m looking forward to see if we can’t make some strides.”
He and Saunders consulted on those offseason changes by telephone all summer, forging a relationship between two lifelong coaches who combined have won 1,640 NBA games. Most of Saunders’ victories came in nine seasons as Wolves coach nearly a decade or more ago.
Saunders returned to the franchise in May, becoming the team’s new president of basketball operations when owner Glen Taylor decided not to extend David Kahn’s contract after four years on the job.
On Monday, Adelman was asked about having another coach — and part team owner — above him.
“For me, it just adds a guy I know, who was a very, very good coach in this league and had some great teams,” Adelman said. “It always helps when you have someone you can get input from, who has been there and been through it. Sometimes you say, ‘You have a coach sitting over your shoulder.’ Well, if I’m going to worry about that, I’m in big trouble. If I were 35 years old, I might be thinking about the situation a little differently.
“I’m still going to make the final decision on what goes on with the team, but I want his input, his ideas. He knows the league really well. He knows what it takes to win, and he’ll add the people he feels can do that. He has such a great understanding of the league. He knows what type of players I wanted.”