Former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Rick Adelman will be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame tonight. In a recent piece, Sacramento Kings writer Alex Kramers detailed in depth what made Adelman an all-time great.
During his eight seasons in Sacramento from 1998 to 2006, Kramer spotlighted Adelman’s offensive innovation which consistently made the Kings a top offensive team. Adelman’s patented “corners” offense, which originated from the classic Princeton offense, revolutionized the NBA game with an emphasis on pace, space, and passing that still influences the game today. NBA coaches such as Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers all borrow from Adelman’s playbook for their own sets.
Adelman’s emphasis on pace and space was certainly ahead of its time, and opposing coaches were taking notice. So much so, that in his retirement press conference, Adelman quipped that it became challenging to scheme against the very sets his teams popularized and ran to perfection.
Apart from his offensive schemes, Kramer said Adelman’s ability to earn the respect and love of his players and get the best out of them also made him special.
Few coaches were better at motivating players and utilizing them correctly. With a blend of freedom and meaningful discipline, by optimizing strengths and curtailing weaknesses, he brought the best out of everyone who took the floor in a purple and black jersey.
With his calm demeanor, those who played under Adelman portray his personality as kind, commendable and unselfish, straying away from the spotlight. Kramer’s piece tells stories of Adelman buying Kings’ staff personalized Christmas gifts each year and forming a close connection with then-Kings athletic trainer Pete Youngman as his father was terminally ill with cancer.
When he rejoined the team, Youngman would dial his father’s number on bus rides after road games, and each time, Adelman — as usual, knowing just what to say — would lean forward from his seat and engage the elder Youngman in conversations about basketball.
Kramer’s piece also explains Adelman’s journey from former NBA player to NBA head coach, which included a stop as head coach of Chemeketa Community College in Salem, Oregon and a close bond with Portland head coach Jack Ramsay that landed him an assistant spot on the Blazers’ bench in 1983.
Adelman was a head coach in the NBA for 23 seasons and for five different teams before retiring in 2014. During his six seasons as head coach in Portland from 1989 to 1994, he coached the Blazers to a 291-154 record (second-most wins behind his stint with the Kings) and two NBA Finals appearances. He ended his career with a total record of 1042-749.
Adelman was also a member of the Blazers’ first team in the 1970-71 season, appearing in 237 games over three seasons.
You can read Kramer’s full piece here.