Rick Adelman is wrapping up his third season as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and after yet another disappointing year the 67-year-old coach is reportedly stepping down when the regular season concludes. Adelman almost didn’t come back for this season because of his wife’s health, but with a stagnant roster and a one-year option remaining on his contract, Adelman has decided to walk away from the game for good.
Hopes were high when Adelman came in prior to the 2011-12 season as the Timberwolves had a budding superstar in Kevin Love and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of recent first-round pick Ricky Rubio. In two seasons with both Rubio and Love as the cornerstones of the franchise, Adelman has been unable to make the Timberwolves better than a .500 squad, and maybe his departure will be a good thing for the team.
Adelman has possibly done more to hurt the future of the Wolves than help it as he was the reason for the terrible Derrick Williams trade earlier this season and has done nothing to convince Love to remain in Minnesota after his contract ends in 2015.
Rubio has become a more conservative passer and playmaker over the past couple seasons, likely because Adelman is an old-school teacher who prefers the safer veterans over the wily and unpredictable youngsters. A prime example of this was the hesitancy to play both Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad earlier this season despite aggressively trading for both the night of the draft.
Adelman’s unconventional substitution patterns often force players to play a full quarter or over 40 minutes in a single game, which is likely the reason the Wolves only win 27.8 percent of close games they are involved in. They recently blew a 22-point lead to the Phoenix Suns, who they’re currently trailing in the Western Conference playoff race, in a game that Rubio totaled 44 minutes with only three bench players stepping on the court.
Adelman routinely switches his substitution patterns on a whim, and until a recent feud with J.J. Barea, the departing coach was often playing the veteran guard the entire fourth quarter while sitting the pass-first Rubio. Yes Rubio was on pace to be the worst shooter in NBA history, but the fatigue that sets in after playing a whole quarter could hardly be good for either Barea or the Timberwolves.
As the season draws to an end, it’s clear Adleman’s time in Minnesota has been underwhelming. And given the current state of the franchise, the Timberwolves must bring in the right head coach — possibly Fred Hoiberg — to turn this win-now team around and into a legitimate playoff contender for the first time since trading Kevin Garnett.