MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Rick Adelman coached four teams in his first two decades in the NBA, each time taking a year off before starting his next journey.
He didn’t wait nearly as long to take over perhaps his most challenging job yet.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are bringing Adelman in to try and turn around one of the NBA’s most downtrodden franchises.
Two people with knowledge of the agreement told The Associated Press on Monday that the team and the 65-year-old Adelman have agreed on terms and a contract is expected to be signed soon. The people requested anonymity because an official announcement has not been made.
Adelman replaces Kurt Rambis, who lasted just two seasons on the job.
“Houston, we have a coach,” All-Star forward Kevin Love tweeted earlier Monday, kicking off the welcoming festivities for an accomplished coach who will be expected to bring credibility and intensity back to a team that has severely lacked both in recent seasons.
Adelman is 945-616 in 20 seasons as a head coach of the Trail Blazers, Kings, Warriors and Rockets. He parted ways with Houston in April and the Rockets brought in former Timberwolves executive and coach Kevin McHale to replace him.
He’ll have his work cut out for him at his latest, and perhaps final, stop.
The Timberwolves have won just 32 games over president of basketball operations David Kahn’s first two seasons, including an NBA-worst 17-65 record last year.
With the Timberwolves reeling and struggling to draw fans ever since they traded Kevin Garnett to Boston in 2007, Kahn and owner Glen Taylor set out to make a statement after Kahn’s drawn-out firing of Rambis drew criticism.
In addition to Adelman, the Wolves interviewed Don Nelson, Sam Mitchell, Bernie Bickerstaff, Mike Woodson, Terry Porter and Larry Brown in the kind of deliberate process that has become the hallmark of Kahn’s short tenure.
And even though many around the league expected Adelman to take another year off, wait for the lockout to be resolved and make a run at a team with more veterans who are considered closer to contending for a title, the Wolves managed to convince him to join them.
In doing so, Taylor and Kahn landed a proven winner who has a history of playing the kind of free-flowing, up-tempo system that Kahn so desperately wants in Minnesota. Kahn clashed with Rambis over the direction of the offense.
Adelman led the Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992 and in his 18 full seasons as a head coach he has presided over a team with a losing record just twice.
In Minnesota, Adelman inherits a promising roster that includes Love, No. 2 pick Derrick Williams and Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.
Adelman has a long history with Love, which may have played a role in accepting a position with a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004.
Love played on the same Oregon high school team as Adelman’s son, and the two got to know each other while Adelman attended the games. The versatile forward is one of the league’s best rebounders who also has 3-point range and seems to be an ideal fit for Adelman’s offense.
The Timberwolves also have an intriguing, if unproven, young cast around Love, including Williams, Wes Johnson and Michael Beasley. One of Adelman’s biggest tasks will be to help Rubio, the fifth overall pick in 2009, acclimate himself to the NBA game.
Rubio decided to spend the previous two years playing in Spain rather than exercise an enormous buyout to play in the NBA right away, and his progression seems to have slowed. Now he will learn the game from one of the league’s top offensive minds.
The Timberwolves will also need to add a veteran or two to help Adelman show the young pups how to be professionals, but locking down a replacement for Rambis was the first step.
Adelman twice came to the Twin Cities in August to meet with Wolves brass and he knows Kahn from the days when the executive was an NBA writer for The Oregonian and Adelman coached the Blazers.
Ultimately, Taylor had to make the decision to pay Adelman what he wanted while also having to pay Rambis the final two years and $4 million left on his contract.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)