Adelman's style would work well in Houston

Updated: 2007-05-23 17:18

Rick Adelman needs a job. The Houston Rockets need a head coach. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady need someone to speed up their attack and add a little flow to their halfcourt hustle. And owner Les Alexander needs someone he can commiserate with once in a while.

So who better than Adelman?

Really, no one.

Excluding the last qualification -- the one about returning the boss's phone calls -- the Rockets' anticipated hiring of the Kings' former coach offers a safe, soft landing and concludes the embarrassingly bizarre Jeff Van Gundy departure.

The respected Van Gundy didn't want to stay. Then he wanted to stay. Then the Rockets wanted him to stay. Then they didn't want him to stay. Then everyone finally agreed that the owner was married to someone who preached defense (Van Gundy), was attracted to someone who favored offense (Adelman), and that the only way to resolve their differences was to part ways.

And you thought the Eric Musselman meet and greet -- and be gone -- saga was weird? While Van Gundy was debating whether he wanted to return, he indirectly endorsed his apparent successor. "He (Alexander) wanted to be faster, Phoenix-like," Van Gundy told the Houston Chronicle. "I said, 'You owe it to yourself to go and search for someone if there's a better fit ... ' "

Coaching in the NBA is a niche sport. It's all about fit. Don Nelson was a hit in Milwaukee, Dallas and Golden State and out of work in weeks in New York. Rudy Tomjanovich was an icon in Houston and a quick escapee from L.A. Pat Riley is tremendous with a healthy and talented roster, not so tremendous with a bunch of stiffs. Gregg Popovich was born to coach Tim Duncan. Jerry Sloan is the Utah Jazz.

Adelman, who took Portland to the NBA Finals twice and the Kings to eight consecutive postseasons, yet struggled with an underwhelming Warriors roster, will excel with the Rockets for several reasons, not the least of which is his experience coaching skilled centers and unconventional guards. Following his one-year respite, he will devise a system that exploits Yao's passing abilities -- much as he did with Vlade Divac and Brad Miller -- features the gifted McGrady, and creates openings and angles for entry passes.

And here's another reason this marriage should be fruitful: Yao and McGrady are class acts and willing pupils. This is not a young Jason Williams and his encouraging older sidekick, Chris Webber. Latrell Sprewell doesn't reside anywhere near the Toyota Center, either.

Barring some unforeseen offseason personnel moves, Adelman should be free from polarizing discussions about the appropriate supervision of Williams, about the benefits and detriments of a loose locker room, about whether indulging ailing former stars prevents conflict or, as some of us contend, merely serves as a prelude to a bitter ending.

The major criticisms -- here and elsewhere -- of Adelman during his eight-year tenure in Sacramento can be condensed into his dealings with Webber post-knee surgery. Specifically: Why he continued enabling his limping power forward when everyone with two eyes and a television knew Miller and Divac belonged in the lineup.

Miller was never the same. Nor were the 2003-04 Kings. A demoralized Divac signed with the Lakers. Peja Stojakovic asked for a trade. Mike Bibby became permanently conditioned to a slow-paced offense, the predictable two-man game on the left side of the floor.

And be clear about this: The Rockets won't become sprinters merely because Adelman is the coach. What he will do is implement a system that emphasizes movement and screens, capitalizes on his players' individual talents and leans heavily on offense.

Other than their considerable reputations and mutual respect, the only things Adelman and Van Gundy really have in common are that both can be sour-faced and a little prickly, and not particularly accommodating to the people who sign their substantial paychecks. (This also drove the Maloofs to distraction.)

This time, Rick? When the boss calls?

Pick up the phone, at least once in a while.

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