Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman beat a hasty retreat following Wednesday night’s 136-130 double-overtime loss to Utah, making a direct exit toward the locker room while his players threw T-shirts into the Target Center crowd on fan appreciation night — the final night of a long season that seemingly refused to end.
If this is the way Adelman’s NBA career will conclude after 1,791 games coached and 1,042 games won, he didn’t spend any time waxing sentimental as he left the court or in his postgame media remarks.
“Just disappointed,” he said after the Wolves recovered from a 19-point first-half deficit, only to lose following two extra sessions of work. “I really thought we were going to win this game.”
His initial reaction to the loss probably matched the way Wolves fans felt about their team’s season, one that began with playoff expectations and ended with a 40-42 record. That losing record is still easily the Wolves’ best in nearly a decade.
“We wanted to finish .500 or better,” All-Star forward Kevin Love said after losing to a Jazz team that had lost 21 of its past 24 games before Wednesday’s finale and had lost three previous meetings against the Wolves, all in blowout fashion.
Just how important was that .500 benchmark, if only symbolically?
“Obviously not important enough,” Love said.
Adelman ticked off a list of all the things his team didn’t do to win, adding that it had “all summer to figure that out.”
That summer and that figuring out almost certainly won’t include Adelman’s input.
“I’m not thinking about that right now,” Adelman said when asked about his future. “I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed in this game, that we weren’t able to do more. It’s kind of the way the season went, the way this game went tonight.”
The Wolves won 12 games this season by 20 or more points and lost 13 by four points or fewer but still finished nine games out of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
Their 40 victories are the franchise’s most since the 2004-05 team went 44-38, but the Wolves now haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years. That continues the longest active streak in the NBA.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m disappointed we didn’t make it,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. “But there are a lot of things we can come up and say there’s a bright future. I think the first year we had 26 [victories], then we had 31, now we have 40. So it goes like this. Next year we hope we make it. Of course I’m disappointed, but it’s something to think about.”
Love mostly attributed the season’s outcome to what he termed tough breaks and bad luck and noted that 40 victories “still is a 25 percent increase in wins.”
“I mentioned us needing to be a little more lucky in my opening day press conference on media day,” Love said, thinking back to October. “We didn’t have some of that luck we needed. We got some tough breaks and some tough injuries at the wrong time. That’s what separated us from winning 40 games instead of 50 games … I’m a big believer that you create your own luck. What you really put out there is what you get. The basketball gods, they weren’t kind to us. We just have to work harder.”
Love will return to California for most of the offseason to further develop his game with his own coaches. He said he also expects to consult with Wolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders on potential moves the team can make to get better. The first order of business is expected to be choosing a new coach.
“I’m sure like last summer, I’ll be pretty heavily involved,” Love said.
The Wolves must show Love there’s hope for the future before he can become an unrestricted free agent in July 2015.
When asked if he still has faith in the team’s future, he said, “Sure, of course.”
Love also acknowledged after Wednesday’s loss that the team’s improvement rests in good measure with him.
“Obviously I carry a lot of the weight,” he said. “That’s what I get paid to do. So a lot of it rides on my shoulders and that’s what I’m going to continue to do, keep working hard to change that. Some stuff is out of your control, but the stuff you can control you have to fight for as hard as you possibly can and go from there.”
If the Wolves don’t believe Love will re-sign with them next year, they likely will attempt to trade him either this summer or next season. When asked if he thinks he will be on the roster come training camp next fall, Love didn’t answer while a team public-relations official ended a four-minute postgame interview.
At the next locker stall over, Rubio lamented the chance squandered to avoid a losing record.
“We tried, it wasn’t the way we wanted to finish this season,” Rubio said. “Of course one game is not going to change what happens in the whole year, but it would be something positive this season, at least being .500.”