Love and money lure Adelman to Minny

After Rick Adelman coached his final game with the Houston Rockets in April, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn found the coach in the corridors of the Target Center. It wouldn’t be long until Adelman would be searching for a job, and Kahn a coach. Let’s talk this summer, Kahn was heard to tell him. This was a conversation that Adelman preferred to never have again in his life, but circumstances change. And money matters.

Privately, Adelman didn’t disguise his disdain for Kahn. They go back to Adelman’s glory days coaching the Portland Trail Blazers in the late 1980s and 1990s, when Kahn was covering the NBA beat as a sportswriter for the Oregonian. The idea that a bad sportswriter had turned into a brutal NBA executive troubled him, sources said. He couldn’t stand him then, and had no intention of resurrecting a working relationship with the man.

As they say, you can’t pick your family members, or your beat writers. Your GM? Well, that’s different. Adelman badly wanted the Los Angeles Lakers job, and he would’ve been hired had GM Mitch Kupchak not had to defer to Jim Buss’ desire for Mike Brown.

Once Kurt Rambis was fired, Kahn reached out, and Adelman resisted. Ultimately, Kahn needed Minnesota owner Glen Taylor to get involved in the recruitment of Adelman, because the GM had no chance with him.

Five months ago, Adelman never would’ve imagined he’d coach the Timberwolves. He was 65 years old, wanted a contender, and the Wolves are a long, long way away. Well, $5 million a season can change a man’s mind. It’s no crime, but understand: The money mattered here. Probably mattered the most. Yes, Adelman wanted to coach Kevin Love(notes), but he had no intention of doing it on a discount. In the end, money overrode everything – including the presence of Kahn.

“Rick would never agree to anything with Kahn,” one league official connected to Adelman said Monday. “This had to be [a deal] with Taylor. …Rick has talked many times of his dislike for Kahn.”

Adelman understands the coaching landscape has changed, and $5 million-a-year contracts are rarities these days. He talked himself into this job, because the owner coughed up the money, and because Kahn knows he effectively works for Adelman now. Adelman took the job despite Kahn, and the owner won’t let Kahn get in the way of what Adelman wants, and what he tells him needs to happen there.

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Yes, this happened because Adelman finally found a way to justify the possibilities against the biggest drawback of the job: walking into the office and getting a daily dose of Kahn’s empty thoughts on basketball, his embarrassing management style. No, Adelman doesn’t come unless Taylor made a strong pitch of autonomy for the coach, unless Taylor paid Adelman like few small-market owners pay coaches in the NBA anymore.

Adelman has a longer contract than Kahn, and far more now. Taylor had to get Adelman, and had to overpay market value for him. He had no choice because his franchise has been a laughingstock with Kahn, and he needed the credibility of Adelman for a chance to re-sign Kevin Love.

The chance to coach Love had been the most intriguing part of the job for Adelman, sources said, because he thinks Love will be fantastic in his offense. Adelman watched Love grow up in Oregon, watched his son share a friendship with Love, and now Adelman and Love are the powerbrokers for the Wolves. They give the operation professionalism.

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This leaves Kahn’s personal project, Ricky Rubio(notes), in a strange sort of limbo. A different coach, with Adelman’s stature, would’ve been made to commit completely to the rookie point guard, to play him through his mistakes. That won’t happen with Adelman, who won’t have to adhere to Kahn’s commands. Kahn went to great lengths to get Rubio into a Wolves uniform, and Adelman wouldn’t have taken this job had there been mandates to play him. That partnership will be on the coach’s terms, not Rubio’s.

Adelman knows he can outlast Kahn on the job, and probably pick his successor – Adelman himself, or someone else – once Taylor finally runs the GM out. There were times this summer, sources say, when Kahn was paranoid over the possibility of Taylor conducting a clandestine search for a new GM, but it never happened.

Yet, Rubio has to prove himself in the NBA, and he’ll probably have to do it without a GM running interference for him. Rubio still has a chance to be very good, but he needs to get out of Europe, get to the NBA with some young finishers surrounding him.

For now, Kahn is back on the Adelman beat, and one thing hasn’t changed: The coach doesn’t have to answer his questions, doesn’t have to return his calls. Only the masthead says Kahn is above him now. This wasn’t Rick Adelman’s big idea when he left the Rockets, but it became one more big-money score when the Wolves had to try to buy back credibility. David Kahn still has his office, his business cards, but a lousy sportswriter turned farce of a GM is back where he started: trying to win Adelman’s respect, trying to stay an insider on the coach’s team.

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