Last week was an odd time for aging head coaches. With the 68-year-old Jerry Sloan calling it quits after 23 years with the Jazz, some of the league's older coaches may now sit wondering where they stand for the future even with great careers behind them.
One of those figures is Rick Adelman, coach of the injury-stricken yet nonetheless lottery-bound Houston Rockets. Over his career, Adelman has taken one team to the NBA Finals, several others to the conference finals, and many more to the playoffs? While he has no championship, he's without doubt one of the most successful coaches of his era for the quantity and quality of his accomplishments.
Adelman turns 65 in June and has his future on the mind. Jerome Solomon has more for the Houston Chronicle:
But at the end of this season Adelman will consider calling it quits. He talked about the "R" word with his wife, Mary Kay, last summer. "We will talk about it this year, more seriously, and decide what do I really want to do in the future?" said Adelman, who has been in the league since he was drafted by the San Diego Rockets in 1968. "I think you think about it when you get to this many years in the league. [...]
Adelman's voice trailed off as he thought about the Rockets' inconsistency this season. He describes last season, when the Rockets went 42-40 and failed to make the playoffs, as a "real pleasure" because of how his team competed. He likes his players and the organization, but ...
"You certainly want to win more games," he said. "I think at the end (of the season) with my contract running out, I'm going to look at it and see what I want to do."
Solomon notes that Adelman has plenty of energy and still enjoys coaching, but the NBA is nevertheless a taxing league where fortunes can change on a dime and expectations are rarely fulfilled. It's tough to handle that atmosphere for 10 years, let alone 40, and no one can fault older coaches for stepping away from the game they've devoted their lives to.
Clearly, Adelman was considering retirement before the Sloan news and probably won't be swayed either way but this new development. But the proximity of these decisions does bring up the issue of legacy. Both coaches have been extremely successful without tasting the ultimate sweetness of an NBA championship, but they're also legends in their own right with impressive staying power. Neither is likely to top Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich on a list of the best coaches of the last 25 years, yet that doesn't mean they don't deserve as many plaudits as possible.
With Sloan already gone, Jackson set to retire after this season, and Adelman possibly on his way out, as well, we're seeing the end of an era for this group of coaches. It's hard to imagine the NBA without them, but times change. The question is, with coaching changes more common than ever and several flirting with burnout, will we ever see lifers like Sloan and Adelman again?
- Rick Adelman