When Rick Adelman was brought in to coach the Rockets in 2008, much was expected of him. The Rockets had two stars in Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming and had begun filling in the roster with quality supporting players. And to a certain degree Adelman was tremendously successful as Rockets coach as he led the Rockets to the playoffs and 50-plus win seasons his first two years despite never really getting Yao and McGrady together for more than a few games in a row.
Then, after both McGrady and Yao had been injured, Adelman flew in the face of doubters to will a depleted roster to a pair of winning seasons with 6'6" Chuck Hayes starting at center. However, after a disagreement about the direction of the team, Adelman and the Rockets parted ways, leading to Kevin McHale's hire as the coach.
McHale, the famous low-post extraordinaire for Boston in the 80's and early 90's, was brought in to kick-start a youth movement the Rockets have been working on over the last few years in the post-Yao era. With a promise to play young players like Hasheem Thabeet, Terrence Williams, and Jordan Hill more than they'd been played under Rick Adelman, McHale seems dedicated to making the young talent a priority in the next few years.
However, the Rockets will certainly miss Rick Adelman and his overachieving ways. Read on to see exactly why they'll miss him.
Despite being one of the better big men of his time, there is little indication that McHale is anything more than just your average head coach. Daryl Morey, the Rockets' well-respected GM, selected McHale for the position, but other than the rhetoric that they've been spewing for the last few months, what evidence is there that McHale will be a great coach?
In his career, McHale has had just two stops as an interim coach, both times with Minnesota, and that sample size is not enough to tell much about his coaching style. In his last and longer stint with Minnesota, McHale coached an underwhelming Timberwolves squad that featured Randy Gomes and Ryan Foye as the two players playing the most minutes to a 20-43 record. Though there were a couple of legitimate NBA players on that roster, they were few and far between.
Unlike Adelman, who has a long track record of getting the most out of his teams and leading them to over-achievement in the face of adversity, McHale has no such record of this. He could end up being a pretty solid NBA coach who improves the host of young big men the Rockets have, but at the same time he could be a huge disappointment.
Though Adelman's even keel is sometimes confused for apathy, there is no doubt that Adelman is one of the most passionate coaches in the league and an equally hard working coach. When things get bad, Adelman is not one to scream at his players or meltdown but rather calmly motivates them to pick themselves up and keep working hard.
After tough losses, Adelman has a reputation of rarely letting his players have it in the locker room, instead spending countless hours watching tape to remedy their faults. Obviously every coach watches film, but few do to the same degree that Adelman does as he obsesses over every last detail.
Those hours do not get the media's attention like a good meltdown or an angry post-game speech, but they are far more productive than letting emotions get the better of you.
In his tenure as coach of the Rockets, Rick Adelman developed a reputation for consistently playing veterans instead of young players, instead forcing the rookies to earn their playing time. From his love affair with Brad Miller to his faith in Brent Barry, Adelman has never been shy to play older, more proven players.
However, at the same time, he has proven to be a tremendous developer of talent. By forcing young players to earn their playing time instead of feeling entitled to it, Adelman has made these players constantly work hard so they can stay on the court.
While Daryl Morey has gotten a ton of credit for drafting well, Adelman has to receive some of the credit for developing the draftees into successful NBA players. In his time as coach of the Rockets, he's brought in and developed Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson and other good players picked later in the draft than the average draft star.
Kevin McHale was brought in to develop young big men and play the young guns more and we can only hope for the best. If history is any indication, it will be difficult to live up to Adelman's reputation.
Ever since Rick Adelman took over the helm as the Rockets' coach, the offense has consistently outperformed expectations and players have taken steps forward on that side of the ball. With his distinctive motion offense, players get the ball in spots where they can score with ease and do so on a regular basis.
It was under Adelman that Kevin Martin turned from a really good scorer to the second best in the league (on a per minute basis) and a similar transformation occurred with Kyle Lowry. Though a lot of Lowry's improvement can be traced to improved shooting form, Adelman's system enabled him to have an avenue for open shots as defensive players tried to rotate back to stop him. Even defensive wizard Chuck Hayes experienced a renaissance of sorts under Adelman last year, improving his offensive numbers dramatically across the board.
Without Adelman, it will be interesting to see if the Rockets can continue the success they had on offense in recent years. Though nobody knows exactly what offense Kevin McHale will run, it's not likely that the offense will be tailor-made to each player's strengths like Adelman's was. Eventually, the team may be alright, but there will be severe growing pains in the early going on the offensive side of the ball.
In the weeks leading up to the Rockets' split with Rick Adelman, the rumors were growing that Adelman's tenure was coming to an end. After hearing this, a number of players went to the Rockets' front office to voice their support for Coach Adelman.
This case is not the only time players have declared how much they love Adelman, others like Ron Artest have lauded Coach Adelman for his ability to give the players leeway while also directing them successfully.
For years, the Rockets have been known as one of the hardest working teams in the league, and part of this has to be attributed to Adelman. Having scrappers like Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry helps, but Adelman helped transform players with lazy reputations like Kevin Martin into high energy players.
With him gone, it's unclear whether Kevin McHale can have the same effect. McHale may have been a tremendous big man, but it's unlikely that he will be able to motivate his players like Adelman did.