Adelman back coaching Wolves after absence
JAN 28, 2013 10:23a ET
MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Adelman's voice trailed off, not quite angrily and very much uncomfortably.
"I don't know," the coach said when asked what he'd learned from his wife's illness and his consequent three-week absence from the Timberwolves. "I'd rather not…"
I'd rather not say? I'd rather not think about it? When it comes to those three weeks, there are a lot of things that Adelman would simply rather not. He's back, after all, back to his shorthanded team that went 2-9 without him, back on the same day that Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic returned to a full practice. He's back just two days before a stretch of six games in 10 days at home begins, back at a crucial time.
He's back, and that's what Adelman would like to focus on. He's back, and after a minute or two spent talking to him, it's almost possible to forget that he was ever gone. But he was, and in his return perhaps more so than his absence, the coach put everything into perspective.
For two weeks now, ever since the team returned from its four-game, four-loss trip down south, there's been chatter of its demise. This was supposed to be the season, the one when the Timberwolves finally started winning, when Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio finally got significant time together, when Adelman got his wish for yet another contender in another town. It is none of those things, not now, and with the team missing its coach and a good chunk of its roster, it was easy to complain in recent weeks.
It was easy to complain, that is, until Adelman reappeared Monday, with his steadying words and stolid presence. He's a solution, or part of one, and in his return, the problem seemed to matter less.
"It's hard, obviously," Adelman said. "I've never done this. This has never happened. But there's some things more important than basketball or anything else, and I think the team understands that. Hopefully, things will settle down here now."
Adelman said that his wife, Mary Kay, who had been hospitalized with an undisclosed illness, is now resting at home, and though he was leery to offer details of her condition – he shouldn't have to, either – he did say that the situation is progressing to the point that he felt comfortable rejoining his team.
Despite the fact that Adelman had never missed time like this before before, he seemed to have a good grasp on the best way to handle his absence. He didn't want to come back too early, he said, to return for a game or two only to have to leave for another stretch, because he felt that might do more damage than good.
"I was pretty aware of what was going on all the time," Adelman said. "But I've learned, if you're not there, you've got to let the guys just do it. The coaching staff is a good coaching staff, and it had to be their decision. That's why… I wasn't coming back for one day or two days and then leaving again. I didn't think that would be fair to anybody."
Of course he knows there's still a chance he'll have to leave again – how could there not be? – but Adelman seemed confident in his decision to return and that it came at the right time both for him and for his players.
When asked to assess the performance of assistant coach Terry Porter, who stepped in as acting head coach in his absence, Adelman had nothing but good things to say. After all, Porter took the reins of a team that, in the middle of his tenure, was granted an injury exception to sign an additional player because it was so shorthanded. There's really no way to handle that gracefully, and when you're a guy with three years of head coaching experience to Adelman's 21, people are of course going to find their faults.
Adelman, though, was just pleased to have a staff he trusted in place to cover for him, and Porter was more than happy to do so. When he was playing for Adelman in Portland, Porter lost both of his parents on separate occasions, and he said that he and the coach had plenty of time to talk about priorities in times like those.
"It was tough for me, and we had a lot of talks about that, just trying to get back into the flow and get your mind off of it," Porter said. "Emotionally, it's so draining to see a loved one go through some of that stuff."
As happy as Porter was to return the favor, he was thrilled to have Adelman back on Monday. In times like these recent weeks, morale can be a problem, even if players don't realize it, and Adelman was more than aware of the effect his absence must have had both on the team's record and in other, less quantifiable, ways.
"It's great to have him, hear his voice, you know," Porter said. "Like anything, I think it was great for the guys to see him and great for the coaching staff to have him back."
So Rick Adelman is back, with his grey goatee and his hoodies, with his penchant for sighs and his propensity to refer to opposing players as "that guy" rather than by their full names. Things are back to normal, or as normal as they'll ever be for this injury-ridden group, and with a manic schedule looming, there's no more time to dwell. The perspective of the whole thing will fade, and soon enough it'll seem again like basketball is the most important thing in the universe.
When asked whether he'd ever been through anything like this before in his career, Adelman was quick with his answer.
He paused. "No."
Another pause. "No."
The perspective will fade, but this reminder will be hard to forget.
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