Even esteemed San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich — winner of four NBA titles and 967 games, ninth on the NBA’s career list behind Adelman’s 1,042 — admits it.
“I don’t know if all teams do,” Popovich said, “but I’ve stolen from him, very honestly.”
Coaching role model
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra — winner of the past two NBA titles — studied Adelman’s ways growing up in Portland, where his father Jon was a Blazers executive for a decade. He was a star player at the University of Portland when Adelman took his hometown pro teams to those two NBA Finals.
“I think everybody knows he probably was the biggest influence in my life to get into coaching,” Spoelstra said. “I loved his style, I loved the way he did it. I loved the class, the integrity, how he handled himself off the court. He was an incredible role model for me when I was a young person. His style of play, those Blazers were an extremely exciting team, but he has also done it different ways each stop he has been. That’s probably the true compliment as a coach: He has been able to find ways to win with different styles in different places and other teams mimic how his teams played.”
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers borrowed a play when he coached those formidable Boston Celtics teams that featured Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
“We won a game with it in Boston,” Rivers said. “We called it ‘Adelman,’ so you learn from him.”
Adelman long has been known as a “player’s coach,” a description he admits still baffles him on its meaning, other than “you don’t get hit by a guy?”
In essence, he has left players alone to do their work and holds them accountable if they don’t.
Quiet farewell just fine
His teams made the playoffs 16 times in his first 18 seasons as an NBA head coach, but they haven’t reached them the past five seasons, since he took Houston to the 2009 playoffs in his second of four seasons there. The Wolves haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, including Adelman’s three seasons as head coach.
“I’m sure they had greater aspirations of their year in Minnesota, but Rick Adelman will go down as one of the greatest coaches in NBA history,” Malone said. “His body of work speaks for itself and every player who played for him — whether it’s guys I’ve coached like Carl Landry or guys like Doug Christie, Peja [Stojakovic] or whoever — all speak glowingly of him.
“That’s how you know you’ve had an impact on a team: When the players you coached who don’t have to say anything — they’ll throw you under the bus, and most will — speak highly of him.”
The Kings honored Adelman before Sunday’s game with a scoreboard video montage commemorating his eight seasons there that played before the game.
“We were saying he’s hating this right now when they had the cameras on him,” Love said. “I’ve really enjoyed — and everybody’s enjoyed — playing for Rick. It is sad he doesn’t get quite the farewell he deserves. He has done right by this game and I think the basketball gods have been so good to him because he has been so good to it. He doesn’t like it to be about him. That’s what a lot of people admire most: kind of his genius behind the scenes.”
That montage might be as close to a tribute to him as he will get.
“There doesn’t have to be,” Adelman said of a personal exit lacking the usual fanfare and tributes. “It’s something I’ve told you before: I asked these guys when we were pretty much out of the playoffs to finish off the season. We won some really nice games. You have to approach it that way. When the season’s over, then everything happens from that point on.”
And if he does just walk off into the mist, then so be it?