Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Tough to keep the fire burning after years on the sideline

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: April 19, 2014 - 6:45 PM

The last of Rick Adelman’s seven seasons as an NBA player was 1974-75. Two years later, he took a coaching job at Chemekata Community College in Salem, Ore. He was there for six seasons.

My guess is you won’t find many sideline wizards who were still in junior college in the year they turned 37 who wound up accumulating Hall of Fame numbers.

Adelman’s first game as an NBA head coach was with Portland on Feb. 18, 1989. He was 43 at the time and would win 1,042 regular-season games and another 79 in the playoffs over the next quarter-century.

The Timberwolves were desperate for credibility when they persuaded Adelman to take the job during the lockout in September 2011. He was 65 at the time, and eight months younger than the sportswriter about to offer this opinion:

What was revealed with Adelman — and with Tubby Smith before him — was the risk that a big-league team or big-time program takes when hiring an older coach.

Tubby was a couple of months from his 56th birthday when hired by the U. Throw in that it was his fourth job as a head coach and that’s “older coach’’ territory.

The issue certainly wasn’t coaching an actual game, particularly with Adelman. I think what defeats many older coaches is being more easily discouraged than in their 30s, 40s and into their 50s.

My view of Adelman was that he had his engine going 100 percent that first winter in Minneapolis, until March 9, 2012, when the rookie point guard, Ricky Rubio, blew out a knee and the playoffs went kaput.
Other issues — including his wife’s health — followed and led to a coach who came off as weary and defeated for much of this failed last season in Minnesota.

Same with Tubby. There were three years of fire, capped by the trip to the Big Ten tournament title game in 2010, followed by three years of February flops that were somehow linked to the absence of a practice facility.

Discouragement is the enemy of old coaches, and I’d say many of us who have been at a task for decades.

Plus Three from Patrick

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer turns 58 in June. Reasons he might avoid “older coach’’ blues:

• It’s his first job as a head coach. Fire burns.

• It’s the NFL. Head coaches set the agenda. Gigantic staffs can do the real work.

• It’s a 16-game season, not 35-40 (Tubby) or 82 (Adelman).

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