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Numerous candidates to replace Rick Adelman as Wolves head coach

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 21, 2014 at 6:36 pm •  Published: April 21, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS — Now that Rick Adelman on Monday morning announced his retirement after 1,402 NBA career coaching victories, what’s next for the Minnesota Timberwolves?

Wolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said he’ll conduct an “extensive” search for the next coach after consulting with owner Glen Taylor.

“We’re going to look in a lot of different areas,” Saunders said.

Saunders, who also owns a small piece of the team, again on Monday refused to rule himself out as a candidate, paraphrasing what Adelman said at his retirement news conference about coaching again.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Saunders said when asked if he could do both jobs. “Rick said that you never know.”

Saunders said he’s seeking someone who will bring an offensive identity to the team like Adelman did and someone with “a track record” — he has won 638 NBA games — but didn’t say that necessarily means NBA head-coaching experience.

Saunders’ steadfast refusal to rule himself out, even though Taylor says thinks both jobs is too much for anyone but a “special person,” leaves him as a prime candidate. Other include coaches with whom he’s friendly — Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, television analyst Jeff Van Gundy — as well as proven NBA head coaches George Karl, Lionel Hollins, Stan Van Gundy, Sam Mitchell and possibly former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson.

ESPN reported the Wolves have interest in Florida coach Billy Donovan.

Karl’s agent last week indicated his client wouldn’t be interested in a rebuilding job such as the Wolves’, not with star Kevin Love’s future in so much doubt. Jeff Van Gundy avoided answering whether he’d be interested in the job on a conference call last week.

Saunders said during a press conference Monday morning that Adelman would remain with the team as a consultant.

“I think it’s time for me to step aside and have someone else come in,” Adelman said. “It’s not that far away. ... I think there are a lot of great pieces on this team. I wish I could have done more but I truly enjoyed my time.”

Saunders said, “The thing I respect about Rick is his competitiveness. You might not think he gets excited, but he has a burning passion, and you could see it on a daily basis. I don’t consider Rick a coach; I consider him a teacher.”

His team finished the season with a 40-42, easily the franchise’s best in nearly a decade — since the 2004-05 team went 44-38 — but still nine games out of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.

Promoted from a NBA assistant to Portland’s head coach in February 1989, Adelman coached the Trail Blazers, Golden State, Sacramento, Houston and the Wolves in a career that now is bound for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

“There’s some sadness, but there’s also some relief,” Adelman said this morning. “I’m ready, and I think my wife is ready, to move on to other things.”

At age 67, he retires eighth on the NBA’s all-time list for coaching victories, behind only all-time leader Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry Sloan, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, George Karl and Larry Brown.

Adelman said he told Taylor “a few weeks ago” that he was leaning toward retirement, and that the decision was a “gradual thing. ... It just kind of seemed like the right time.”

Adelman took the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals twice in his first full three seasons and his teams reached the playoffs 16 times in his first 18 seasons, but he hasn’t led one there since 2009 when he took the Rockets during his second of four seasons in Houston.

He was hired by the Wolves in 2011 after then-president of basketball operations David Kahn interviewed at least other six candidates but finally landed Adelman after a summer of wooing.

He signed a four-year contract then that has an option for either him or the team to escape the contract’s final season if either does so in a two-week window that starts after Wednesday’s finale against Utah at Target Center.

Adelman led the Wolves to a 26-40 record during his lockout-shortened first season. They went 31-51 last season, when star Kevin Love played just 18 games after he broke his shooting hand not once but twice.

This season, they have a chance to reach .500 with a victory over the Jazz in a season when they’ve lost 13 games by four points or fewer.

His last two seasons have included time away from the team — 13 games a season ago, one game this season — to be with his wife while doctors tried to diagnose and manage her seizures.

A journeyman point guard who played seven NBA seasons long ago and only aspired to teach and coach high-school ball, Adelman leaves having influence a whole generation of NBA coaches.

“He’s been what I call a lifer,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told The Associated Press. “He’s been in several different programs, made them all better, done a heck of a job wherever he’s gone, has always been underrated and has been a guy that players have really enjoyed playing for. That’s who he is.”

“I think every coach in this league has taken some of his concepts,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can see every team has part of his corner series as part of their offense.”

Los Angeles Clippers Doc Rivers says many coaches use many of Adelman’s offensive philosophies that ask players to read and react and involve their other four teammates in a movement offense that often utilizes gifted passing big men working well away from the basket.

“But nobody runs it like him,” Rivers said recently. “He started doing it in Portland and then in Sac and everywhere he’s gone, he has won for the most part. He’s one of the better coaches we’ve ever had in the league. A lot of people don’t realize that and I think that’s too bad. But he’s been good for the game. He’s brought a lot to the game. And I think a lot of us coaches look at the stuff he runs and try to integrate, unsuccessfully in most cases.”

Said Adelman, “I’ve had really good players, that’s a big part of coaching. It was my job to put them in position to be successful.”

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©2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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