The Minnesota Timberwolves and Rick Adelman have agreed in principle for him to become the team’s new head coach, according to a league source.
Adelman and the Wolves were close enough to a deal earlier Monday to prompt Timberwolves forward Kevin Love to tweet: “Houston, we have a coach.”
Houston, of course, was Adelman’s last coaching stop. And Love has been close to Adelman and his son since Minnesota’s All-Star forward and Patrick Adelman were high school basketball contemporaries in the Portland, Ore., area.
When I talked about the prospect of me re-signing, I always said one of the things we’d have to have is a great coach. If it’s true (that Adelman has agreed to take the job), we’ve got a great coach.
” — Kevin Love
Sources say Adelman, 65, and fellow coaching veteran Don Nelson, 71, were the two finalists for the vacancy created when Minnesota belatedly fired Kurt Rambis on July 12, some three months after a 17-65 season. Rambis posted a 32-132 record in his two seasons coaching the rebuilding Wolves.
“It’s not done,” one source said of Adelman and the Wolves finalizing a deal, “but it’s heading that way.”
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported in Monday’s editions that negotiations with Adelman had begun. And Love told the newspaper later Monday that hiring Adelman would “absolutely” factor into his willingness to sign a contract extension with the Wolves, who have been abysmal since the July 2007 trade that sent face of the franchise Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics and widely assailed for lacking direction under president of basketball operations David Kahn.
Kahn said upon letting Rambis go that he wanted a proven coach who plays an attractive, up-tempo style and would certainly get all that with Adelman, who is the eighth-winningest coach in NBA history at 945-616, seven slots behind No. 1 Nelson (1,335-1,063).
“When I talked about the prospect of me re-signing, I always said one of the things we’d have to have is a great coach,” Love told the Star-Tribune. “If it’s true (that Adelman has agreed to take the job), we’ve got a great coach.
“We’ve always had a good relationship. Looking back to high school, I always asked myself, ‘What does Rick think I need to improve?’ I kept asking him for advice whenever I had the chance to talk to Rick. I always thought it’d be very interesting and intriguing to play under such a well-respected coach, who I know well, who has been there and done that. He adds credibility to our team.”
Referring to Adelman’s long history of getting the most out of big men with a good passing touch, Love added: “Yeah, like Chris Webber, Vlade (Divac), Brad Miller or any of those guys. That’d be perfect for me, working from the high post, being a facilitator. He has had a lot of success. He went to Houston thinking he’d have Yao (Ming) and Tracy McGrady there and he ends up coaching Aaron Brooks, (Luis) Scola and Chuck Hayes to a better than .500 record. He made the best of the situation there. I’d love to see what he’d do with all the very young talent we have here.”
The Wolves’ chances of talking Adelman into taking the job were widely presumed to be remote, despite his close ties to Love, given Adelman’s longstanding preference to work with veteran teams and his reported determination to come away with annual salary of $5 million for up to five seasons. In Houston, Adelman had a four-year deal worth more than $16 million.
There were seven known candidates to interview for the opening after Rambis’ dismissal: Adelman, Nelson, Bernie Bickerstaff, Larry Brown, Sam Mitchell, Mike Woodson and Terry Porter.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Nelson has been notified by the Wolves that they expect to complete a deal with Adelman.
Earlier this summer, Adelman told reporters in Portland that he planned to sit out the 2011-12 season, whether or not it was affected by the ongoing lockout. But he’s instead on the brink of taking over a wayward team that has only one player older than 26 on the roster (Luke Ridnour) and some interesting young talent (Michael Beasley and rookies Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams) around Love.
Ric Bucher is a senior NBA writer for ESPN The Magazine. Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.
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