Rick Adelman is in the midst of one of the great rebuilding projects the NBA has seen. The Minnesota Timberwolves have not had a .300 win percentage since 2007. So, with the Wolves riding the coattails of Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio to a 10-11 record, Adelman is understandably looking to the future.
That is, except when he made his first return to coach at Toyota Center since the Rockets let him leave last year. Adelman was somewhat unceremoniously let go this offseason after consistently getting the Rockets into the Playoff hunt but not into the Playoffs all without Yao Ming for the most part. Adelman was upset with ownership whom he believed did not communicate with him enough as the end drew near, as David Dalati of FSHouston writes:
“The current coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves indicated that he was aggravated by a report this summer which claimed Rockets owner Les Alexander had periodic phone conversations with Adelman, who coached the Rockets from 2007-11, compiling a 193-135 record with two playoff appearances in four seasons.
“When asked about his current relationship with Alexander, Adelman replied, ‘I’m still waiting for that phone call he said he made to me every year because I never got one. I don’t know where that came from, unless he was calling another Rick.’
“While Alexander was not quoted about how often he communicated with Adelman in the Houston Chronicle report, the story claimed that Alexander would ‘phone (Jeff) Van Gundy (Adelman’s predecessor in Houston) and Adelman three or four times a season.’ The story added that Van Gundy and Adelman ‘chose to have virtually no relationship with their boss.’
“Asked to expound, Adelman said he was making light of the report but went on to explain: ‘(Alexander) said he used to call me three or four times a year and I just . . . it never happened. When you leave a place, there’s reasons why you leave. There’s reasons why you’re not there.
“‘I chose not to accept an extension that they offered me. I saw all this stuff about how I never listened to him. I’m not real smart, but I’m going to listen to my boss. That just kind of turned me the wrong way, but this was a great place to work and I had a lot of fun.'”
Ah, it is always good to have bad blood between a coach and his former team. The Rockets did not comment on Adelman’s comments.
Adelman had the last laugh Monday night as his Timberwolves scored a 120-108 victory at Toyota Center behind Love’s 29 points and a 42-point third quarter. It was an onslaught between two teams that are in the bottom of the Playoff hunt in the early part of the season.
Still, Adelman going off on the Rockets organization, whom he said he has mostly fond memories, was somewhat out of left field. Adelman, after all, went 193-135 including two 50-win seasons and that trip to the conference semifinals when Yao Ming broke his foot and began the beginning of the end in 2009. Adelman’s teams failed to make the Playoffs the next two years despite having 42 and 43 wins those seasons.
Rarely do coaches get the chance to walk away on their own terms. Clearly something was going on within the organization that made Adelman more willing to leave, or better, not to come back.
So far, it seems Kevin McHale (a former coach at Minnesota, ironically) has his team playing at about the same level as Adelman. Even though they are 12-9, most people expect the Rockets to finish somewhere near .500 and in contention for the Playoffs. In other words, the mediocrity every team’s fans fear. At least, it seems, the Wolves have a very bright future.