GOING 1 on 1 with RICK ADELMAN.
By Sean Deveney - Property of SportingNews
Of all the league's new coaches, Rick Adelman might be facing the most daunting task. The Rockets have been knocked out of the postseason in the first round in three of the last four years, despite two 50-win seasons in that span. SN's Sean Deveney caught up with Adelman to talk about that challenge, and also discussed his plans for the Rockets' offense, his stint as a bartender and why he resents people picking on Sam Bowie.
SN: The big thing in Houston, as I am sure you know now, has been not getting to playoffs, but getting somewhere in the playoffs. Do you get the sense that that dominates the organization?
RA: They all want to move on, but from my standpoint, I haven't been here. I want to get there first. This is the Western Conference and there are no guarantees. But I agree, there is definitely a sense of, they want to get past that and they want to compete for the championship. I can see that in the players. We think we can do better.
SN: What can fans expect to see from the offense? Can you adapt what you were doing in Sacramento to Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady ?
RA: I don't think there is any doubt we can. It's all about putting them in positions that go to their strengths. They're not only very good offensive players, but they're smart players, and very good passers. I don't know that we will play exactly the same as we did in Sacramento, but I see no reason why, if we tweak things here or there, we can't do things the same.
SN: You've got a bunch point guards -- Mike James , Rafer Alston , Aaron Brooks , Steve Francis . Coming in, is this an open competition?
RA: Certainly, that's the only way you can do it. You have guys who have played in this league before. I think one good thing about it is, a couple of the point guards can play off guard, too.
SN: You're known as a player's coach. I wonder if you agree with that. Is it one of those vague things that is good when you win and bad when you lose?
RA: Exactly. Usually, if you are a player's coach and you lose your job, they hire a disciplinarian. If you are a disciplinarian and you lose your job, they hire a player's coach. So, I don't know. I understand it is a player's league. I want them to be in a position to succeed and part of that is having fun playing the game.
SN: When you look around the league and see the way more teams put emphasis on offense, do you take a certain pride in that? Your Sacramento teams were ahead of the curve.
RA: I have a lot of experience in working with people who play like that. Jack Ramsay was good with that. Teams in the past who were successful were not necessarily slow-down teams. The Lakers won that way. Boston won that way. It can be done.
SN: I have a quote here, let me read it to you. "I am not sure how long I want to do this. It's a great job, but every year it becomes tougher, especially with a family. I am not in it for life." That was you. In 1989.
RA: Yeah, that's funny. I had a young family then, and it was difficult. But my family has grown up around it. One thing I was very fortunate with is, I was in Portland as an assistant and a head coach for 13 years. Then, I was in Sacramento for eight years. So I had two pretty long-standing jobs.
SN: You mentioned your family, your son is on your staff in Houston. And your daughter is a coach.
RA: My daughter coaches high school, my oldest son is on my staff, and another son coaches high school.
SN: I imagine dinner table conversation is all Xs and Os.
RA: Oh, yeah. We talk basketball to the point where my wife gets tired of us and changes the subject. It's just something we've always done.
SN: You were a seventh-round pick. The draft now is two rounds. Is that too short, would a player like you not get a chance today?
RA: I think back then, there were fewer teams. The only bad part about having two rounds is a lot of times, agents come in and have complete control over where they send their players. Back then, you could take seven or eight players, and you had control over those players.
SN: After you were done playing, you coached Chemeketa Community College in Oregon. That seems to have been an influential experience for you.
RA: Yeah, I got that job and we had a lot of success. That led to me getting the assistant's job with Jack Ramsay. He kind of followed what happened, and when the opportunity came along, he hired me.
SN: There were three other things I read that you did between your playing career and your coaching career. First, is it true that you tended bar at a restaurant owned by [ex-coach] Bob Weiss?
RA: I sure did. I needed a job; I had a teacher's credential but couldn't find a teaching job, so I did that for about six months.
SN: Did you have a specialty? Is there an Adelman-tini?
RA: No, no, I learned how to mix them all, though. But I also learned I did not want to do that very long.
SN: Now, second, did you sell shoes?
RA: I did, I worked for Converse. A lot of ex-college coaches would work for them. So, I had a deal in Orange County, in southern California and I did that about a year before I went into coaching. I wasn't very good at it.
SN: Third thing: You have a master's degree in history from Loyola. True?
RA: Right. I was going to teach high school. In talking to some people, my best chance to get into coaching was to get my master's and be a teacher. I was actually taking classes while I was playing in the NBA. When I got through playing, I was almost done with my master's.
SN: Why history?
RA: I've always loved U.S. history.
SN: You were in Portland in the mid-80s, when the team drafted Sam Bowie. I wonder, when you heard about Greg Oden 's injury, did part of you say, 'Oh no, not again …'
RA: Yeah, you hope that never happens to someone. But it is a lot different. A lot of people look at Sam Bowie because of Michael Jordan and say, that was a huge mistake because of what Jordan did. They say Sam was injury-prone, but what happened to Sam was just freakish. He didn't just step on the court and break his leg.
SN: How so?
RA: It's just not something that happens a lot. He had his feet on the ground, basically, with his knees bent, so his feet were kind of out away from him. Jerome landed right on his leg and basically snapped the bone. It came right through the skin. It was just something I have never seen.
SN: And he was never the same.
RA: His leg never healed. He broke it shooting a jump hook, he broke it just walking around. The bone never healed. If that hadn't happened, Sam Bowie would have been a pretty good player in the NBA. If you go back, before that happened, he was averaging 15, 16 points and about 11 rebounds. I think Oden, with all the experience people have with that injury now, he is going to be fine.
SN: Are you offended when people use Sam Bowie as a punchline?
RA: A little, yes. He doesn't deserve that. I really felt for him, he was a nice kid.