Rick Adelman has stepped down as coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, opting out of the final year of his contract in order to retire at age 67. Adelman's Wolves career ends after three seasons and a combined 97-133 record, with this season's 40-42 being the high water mark. He plans to retire and spend more time with his family, not surprising after the health problems his wife has had over the past couple of years.
Rick Adelman said that he had a mixture of sadness and relief at leaving coaching, but felt that at this point in his life, it's time to give up the grind. He mentioned that he and his wife want to have more time with family.
He will remain as a consultant with the team, though how big a role that will be is unclear.
The team consistently improved under Adelman, though not as fast or as much as we would have liked. Much of that was due to injury, as the team was performing at a playoff level during the 2012 lockout season when Ricky Rubio went down with his torn ACL. The following year superstar Kevin Love played only 18 games, and yet the team managed to win 30+ games for the first time since 2007. This year, they got to 40 wins for the first time since 2005, and yet it was ultimately a disappointment after much was invested in making the playoffs this season. They were plagued by failures in close games, and in the end gave too many winnable games away.
There was significant agitation among the fan base this season that Adelman had lost his touch: that his rotations were actively hurting the team (the hockey lineups, too much Barea especially in the 4th quarter), and so this might come as something as a relief. However, he was also the most accomplished, professional coach the Wolves have ever had, and given the troubles the franchise has had in the past attracting quality candidates up and down the organization, let's not celebrate just yet.
The Wolves expended significant resources last summer recruiting players who had worked under Adelman in the past: Kevin Martin and Chase Budinger, who remain under contract with the team for multiple future seasons. It will be interesting to see whether Flip Saunders tries to move either or both of those players along (easier said then done) now that the driving force behind their acquisition is no longer with the organization.
Flip Saunders said there is no timeline at this point for naming a new coach, as he still has to meet with Glen Taylor to dicuss "...the characteristics they are looking for." He said nothing one way or another whether he would consider moving to the bench himself, but I have the sense that it's unlikely he will do so.
We will obviously have more on the coaching search in the coming weeks, or as long as it takes to hire a new coach, but here are some of the names that have been bandied about since it became apparent that Adelman was likely finished:
Fred Hoiberg: Former Wolves player and executive, current coach at Iowa State. He's been very successful in Ames, which is his hometown, and recently got a raise after the best season in school history. He has been touted as a future NBA head coach, and of course has ties to the Wolves and at least a guest pass to the country club. The question is whether he's ready to leave ISU and whether the Wolves job is one he wants.
George Karl: Was fired by the Nuggets in the same season he won coach of the year. A hugely experienced coach who has led multiple teams to the playoffs during his 25 year career, but tends to wear on people. It would take a lot of Glen Taylor's money to lure him, if he's at all interested. Also, would he and Flip be able to co-exist? Another older coach, he is 63.
Tom Izzo: Friend of Flip, longtime coach at Michigan State. There have been rumors of his going to the NBA for many years, but he hasn't yet. Frankly, I doubt he will. He's got a good gig at Michigan State, is a huge success in college ball, and isn't young anymore at 59. Why would he mess with it?
I'm sure there will be other names mentioned and perhaps interviewed. I'd love to hear from those who have more of sense of this who the hot assistants are around the league. Chris Finch from the Rockets? Who else?
We'll have plenty of coverage of the coaching search for as long as it takes.