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Coaching candidate profile: Rick Adelman

May 24, 2011 |  6:48 pm

Photo: Former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman is among the candidates for the Lakers' vacant coaching job. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images / February 1, 2011. Below is the second post in a series focusing on the Lakers' coaching candidates to replace Phil Jackson.

Candidate: Rick Adelman

Coaching background: Adelman, 64, is eighth in all-time victories with a 945-616 record in 20 NBA seasons as a coach with Portland (1988-94), Golden State (1995-97), Sacramento (1998-2006) and Houston (2007-11). Adelman guided the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals twice, losing in 1990 to the Detroit Pistons and 1992 to Jackson's Chicago Bulls. Despite being the most successful coach with the Sacramento Kings with a 395-229 regular-season record and eight consecutive playoff appearances, Adelman was fired after the 2005-06 season. He then guided the Houston Rockets through four-injury riddled seasons with a 193-135 record and a competitive seven-game series in the 2009 semifinals against the Lakers despite Yao Ming's absence for most of the series and season-ending injuries to Tracy McGrady and Dikembe Mutombo. The Rockets fired Adelman after Houston went 43-39 this season, falling short of a playoff spot by three games despite Ming's appearing in only five contests.

Pros: ESPN.com's Marc Steinreported that one reason why the Lakers are "very interested" in hiring Adelman points to his "corner" offense bearing some similarities to Jackson's triangle offense. Lakers owner Jerry Buss told Playboy Radio's Michael Eaves and Bonnie-Jill Laflin on Sirius XM Radio Tuesday that “we’re not going to continue exclusively with the triangle" before adding, "certainly, there will be facets of the triangle incorporated into any modern offense." Should the Lakers pick Adelman, the adjustment wouldn't be as severe, considering that The Times' Broderick Turner reported that the corner offense involves more "spontaneous pick-and-roll plays." Turner also notes that Adelman shows exceptional skill at working with big men, a valuable asset considering the Lakers have two 7-footers (Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol) and a versatile 6-10 swingman (Lamar Odom).

"He's a very astute guy about the game behind that kind of 'Oh, shucks' demeanor,' " Jack Ramsay, the Hall of Fame coach who hired Adelman as an assistant in Portland in 1983, told the Associated Press in 2008. "He's a bright, thoughtful guy with great experience as a player and a coach. He's always taken what he has and maximized it. That's the sign of a really good coach."

More importantly, all accounts suggest that Adelman knows how to earn respect from players. The reasons go beyond his extensive coaching experience and ability to give the Lakers competitive playoff series in the 2002 Western Conference Finals coaching the Sacramento Kings and the 2009 Western Conference semifinals coaching the Houston Rockets. It even surpasses the familiarity Adelman would have with Ron Artest, who played for him with the Kings and Rockets. The reasons also point to his people skills and willingness to adapt to circumstances, a must-have quality for a veteran-laden team that features Kobe Bryant. Having coached stars, such as former Blazers guard Clyde Drexler, former Kings forward Chris Webber, Yao and McGrady, Adelman shouldn't feel overwhelmed with dealing with the Lakers' stars.

"He's a good human being and the players sensed that immediately," Drexler told the Associated Press about Adelman in 2008. "He'll never embarrass a player, he'll never call one out to make a point. He's always respected his players and always got a lot of respect from his players because of that.

"He would be open to suggestions," Drexler continued. "We would ask to change things and he would say, 'OK. Yeah, let's try it. That will work.' It all came together through communication, and then with the hard work to get to that stage." 

This is different from Jackson's approach, whose needling came with mixed results. In the 2010-2011 season, Jackson's frequent teasing of Gasol and Artest wore on them. Although Jackson's motivational tactics had worked before, perhaps the Lakers would respond better to Adelman's more direct approach simply because it's different.

Cons: The easy criticism points to Adelman's zero championships, but that's overblown considering that  all of his teams overachieved. No, what might make Adelman a bad draw might actually point to how he'd adjust in handling all the hoopla surrounding the Lakers. Although Adelman grew up in Lynwood, went to high school at St. Pius X in Downey and was a standout at Loyola Marymount, coaching in Los Angeles would entail an adjustment period. The Sacramento Bee's Joe Davidson described Adelman as not a "big-media kind of guy," a certain job requirement in thriving with the Lakers. It's not really about media relations as it is about dealing with all the external and inevitable distractions Los Angeles offers. All coaches have to handle that to some degree, but it's easier for players to be led astray here when the branding and marketing opportunities and the glitzy night life prove too enticing. 

--Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Former Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman is among the candidates for the Lakers' vacant coaching job. Credit: Jeff Gross / Getty Images / February 1, 2011.


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