Adelman out in Sacramento after eight seasons

Updated: May 10, 2006, 7:32 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Rick Adelman made eight straight playoff appearances in eight consecutive winning seasons coaching the Sacramento Kings. His teams won two division titles while crafting an exciting new image for one of the NBA's least lovable franchises.

The Friction Issue
Rick Adelman did an outstanding job this year. The job he did with the team after acquiring Ron Artest was, to me, a very strong performance. Getting the Kings, which had gotten off to a slow start, to a sixth game against the defending champion Spurs is more to his credit.

Which makes it only the more clear that this separation is ultimately due to friction with ownership.

The year got off to a difficult start off the basketball court because of the rumors that the Kings' owners had talked to Phil Jackson during the summer. That was a sign of things to come, despite the kind of success Adelman had had with the team.

So it became apparent that ownership was looking in a different direction before the season began.

It's still difficult to believe that someone who had five straight 50-win seasons coming into the season would not be the guy you would want to help contend for a championship. But when you have friction between ownership and coach, it often outweighs what happens on the court.

I would expect Adelman will be coaching in the near future. There are sure to be openings, and his coaching record is an impressive one.

-- Jim O'Brien

And it wasn't nearly enough to save his job when the Kings' owners and executives looked at their empty trophy case.

The Kings chose not to renew the contract of the most successful coach in franchise history Tuesday in a moved mostly motivated by the club's desire for something better than the above-average results delivered by Adelman, 14th on the NBA's career list with 752 coaching victories.

Geoff Petrie, the Kings' president of basketball operations, wouldn't give any clear-cut reasons for the decision not to extend Adelman's contract, which expires in September. But owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, apparently dissatisfied with Adelman for years, are widely thought to be behind the move.

Sacramento was eliminated from the playoffs Friday by the San Antonio Spurs, and the club wasted no time removing the final on-court link to the franchise's revitalization in 1999, when the run of consecutive playoff appearances began.

"I came to the conclusion that continuing this way just wasn't feasible," said Petrie, who also hired Adelman -- his former roommate from their playing days -- when both worked in Portland. "The dynamic that needed to be there to help it move forward just wasn't there."

The Kings also declined to renew the contracts of Adelman's four assistants: Elston Turner, T.R. Dunn, Bubba Burrage and Pete Carril, the Hall of Fame former Princeton coach who spent nine of the last 10 years as a Sacramento assistant.

Adelman, who has won more games than all but five active coaches, spent this season as a lame duck, but still got the Kings into the playoffs at 44-38 with a midseason makeover as a defense-dominated club.

Sacramento made a tremendous late-season surge after the arrival of Ron Artest, who got along well with Adelman. The notorious forward jokingly said he would play for free next year if Adelman and free-agent guard Bonzi Wells were re-signed.

Adelman's departure ends the most successful tenure by far of any coach in the franchise's peripatetic history -- from Rochester to Cincinnati, from Kansas City and Omaha to 21 seasons in Sacramento.

Six consecutive playoff appearances, two different teams
Coach First team Second team
Rick Adelman Blazers (6) Kings (8)
Phil Jackson Bulls (9) Lakers (6)
Pat Riley Lakers (9) Heat (7)
Lenny Wilkens Sonics (6) Hawks (6)

But although Petrie refused to acknowledge it, the Maloof brothers have been unhappy with Adelman's leadership for at least two seasons. Adelman had far more success than all the coaches in Sacramento's two decades of NBA experience combined, but his sometimes-prickly demeanor and his failure to win a championship left him less than beloved.

The family tentatively courted Phil Jackson last summer while Adelman still was under contract, perplexing and angering Adelman. This spring, the brothers could be heard yelling advice at the Kings' bench from their courtside seats when things went poorly on the court.

When pressed on the reasons for Adelman's departure, Petrie replied: "I've answered that to the extent that I can."

Petrie plans to meet with Joe and Gavin Maloof late this week to begin a coaching search. The brothers were in Las Vegas on Tuesday and unavailable for comment.

"In theory, you would like to find someone as quickly as possible because of the draft and whatever trade opportunities can come your way," Petrie said.

ESPN.com's Marc Stein, who earlier this season speculated on Don Nelson as a possible Adelson successor, reports that the Kings do not have to ask the Mavericks for permission to hire Nelson.

Nelson, who is currently an advisor to Dallas owner Mark Cuban, has a clause in his contract that makes him a coaching free agent at season's end. He earned $5 million this season; his salary will drop to $1 million next year.

Adelman, who plans to meet with reporters at the Kings' training complex Wednesday, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. He would be a prime candidate for any offseason vacancies, but few coaches are expected to change jobs this summer -- and Adelman might want to take a prolonged vacation after his tumultuous years with the Kings.

Rick Adelman
Rocky Widner/Getty ImagesAfter eight seasons in Sacramento, Adelman is out as Kings coach.

Adelman is 752-481 in 16 seasons as an NBA coach, the last eight in Sacramento, where he won 395 games and led the Kings to the most success in a franchise history that stretches back to the NBA's founding days, when they were the Rochester Royals.

Adelman's streak of five consecutive 50-win seasons ended this year when the Kings got off to a terrible start. But Adelman might have done the most impressive coaching of his Sacramento tenure this season, molding a cohesive team with just two holdovers from the 2002-03 season.

The Kings transformed themselves into a defense-oriented team when Artest arrived in a late-January trade for Peja Stojakovic. Sacramento won 25 of its final 36 regular-season games and pushed San Antonio in the first round of the postseason, eventually losing in six games.

Both Adelman and the Maloofs made it clear they wouldn't discuss the coach's future until after the season. Adelman met with Joe Maloof on Monday.

"We knew that it was going to be a looming issue," Petrie said. "We put it aside and concentrated on the job at hand. We were so focused on trying to get the team there, trying to reconfigure the style of play."

Adelman led the Kings to the playoffs in each of his seasons, starting with his surprising one-year revitalization of a longtime loser in the strike-shortened 1999 season.

With new acquisitions Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Jason Williams and Stojakovic, the Kings captured the NBA's attention with their high-flying, sharp-passing style. Sacramento increased its win total in each of its first four seasons under Adelman's watch, eventually winning the club's first two Pacific Division titles while going 61-21 in 2001-02 and 59-23 in 2002-03.

The Kings reached Game 7 of the Western Conference finals in 2002 before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers and missing a chance to play for the franchise's first championship since 1951.

Adelman reached two NBA Finals during six seasons in Portland, and also spent two losing seasons coaching the Golden State Warriors. Only Pat Riley, Larry Brown, Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson and George Karl have more victories among active coaches.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report

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