Much has been made of the oft-mentioned bit of NBA wisdom that no coach ever really gets fired (because another team will quickly hire him), and mostly because of Larry Brown, the axiom’s found some legs over the years. And the fact that Rick Adelman, just mere months after being released from his duties by the Houston Rockets, found another home so quickly should come as no surprise to followers of the league. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers all but written up when the Rockets first decided to cut the future Hall-of-Famer loose in April; apparently, so did Mitch Kupchak, that is until Dr. Buss reached his benevolent index finger down from the sky(boxes) to handpick Mike Brown. Yes, Adelman being an NBA head coach on opposing sidelines seemed all but fate from the moment he got his walking papers, but this? This?
Five months ago, Adelman never would’ve imagined he’d coach the Timberwolves. He was 65 years old, wanted a contender, and the Wolves are a long, long way away. Well, $5 million a season can change a man’s mind. It’s no crime, but understand: The money mattered here. Probably mattered the most. Yes, Adelman wanted to coach Kevin Love(notes), but he had no intention of doing it on a discount. In the end, money overrode everything…
It all just leads me to wonder what the hell happened in Houston? Wrapping one’s head around Adelman’s departure and subsequent reappearance in the cold of Minnesota seems something beyond impossible; it’s been asked here many times, but why again did the Rockets expel a man who is most likely the team’s best-resumed, most storied and likely just downright best coach ever? What could be the team’s line of reasoning, you know, outside of the very practical and logical rationales put forth in these very pages (complete control given to Morey, more playing time for younger Rockets in need of development, general ennui)?
Rick Adelman’s run in Houston could be deemed nothing short of successful, given its context, but that all depends on through which context the viewers choose to see Adelman’s tenure in the H. Every year he ran the team, injuries haunted Adelman, like so many good men in Houston before him, as he saw his best players crumble before inevitably leading his squad to what could be considered respectable given the terrible states of his teams (a first-round exit seemed OK since Yao was gone; a game seven loss to the eventual champs was a success because Yao and Tracy were both gone; a couple of .500+ seasons can’t be scoffed at after seeing who he ran out there. Right?).
For whatever reason, that lack of stability began to reflect poorly on Adelman’s run with the team, somehow indirectly implicating him as a leader of overachievers. This unfair, Larry-Brown-esque reputation with the team made him seem permanently temporary, whatever that might mean. Never did it seem that his continual votes of confidence from management were anything other than reminders of the utter competence of Houston’s man stalking the sidelines, rather than promises of a prolonged relationship with Houston.
Now, Adelman likely enjoys free reign in a city badly in need of any sort of reins; immediately, one expects that his visage will likely supplant that of mad genius/outright madman David Kahn as the face of the Timberwolves organization. There has been a lot of talk about the gratuitous amount of cash involved in this hire, and rightly so, but it would be negligent of the press to miss exactly what Adelman will gain in Minny (besides a handsome sum) that he lacked in Houston (and almost certainly would have in LA): impunity. At this point in his career, hasn’t he earned at least that?