It's funny how history always finds a way of catching up with you. Fours days after firing Reggie Theus, the Sacramento Kings look at a match up with Rick Adleman's Houston Rockets tonight at the Toyota Center.
These two franchises have had strong ties for thirty years.
The Maloof family was a majority owner of the Houston Rockets from 1979-1982. They returned to the ranks of NBA team owners when they purchased the Kings in 1998.
Ralph Sampson played for the Rockets for over four seasons and the Kings for two. The Kings would argue that Sampson didn't really "play" inasmuch as he continually found his way to the IR.
The comparison that will be brought up more often than anything else is the trade that sent Ron Artest from the Kings to the Rockets this off season. This is obviously the most recent transaction between these two franchises, and it changed both franchises significantly this season. The Rockets are now considered a contender in most circles whereas the Kings are absolute bottom feeders. Understandably it will be the main focus each time these teams match up throughout the season.
But the real focus of this game with the recent coaching change in Sacramento should be Rick Adelman's history with the team and how his ultimate dismissal has haunted this franchise for the past three seasons.
Rick Adelman is unequivocally the best coach the Kings have had during their time in Sacramento. During his eight seasons with the Kings, Adelman won 395 games with a .633 winning percentage. He took the Kings to the playoffs every season and led them to the Western Conference finals in 2002.
Yet the Maloofs didn't hesitate to show him the door instead of re-signing him after the 2005-06 season. It seemed the Maloofs bought into the belief that certain Blazers and Kings' fans held which was that Adelman was a great regular season coach, but he couldn't win the big games in the playoffs.
What people seem to ignore is how often the chips were constantly stacked against him in those playoff series or how often his star players underperformed when the spotlight was on them.
Adelman took the Blazers to the Finals twice, but he was beaten by superior teams each time. Ask Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and just about any other player how easy it was to beat Isiah Thomas or Michael Jordan in their respective primes.
Adelman was also saddled with players on the Kings that crack under pressure or weren't healthy enough to show up time and time again.
Chris Webber is the ultimate example of why box scores are deceiving. He always seemed to put up big numbers over the course of the game but ran away from the ball like it had cooties in the final minutes. He was also plagued with injuries throughout the latter part of his time in Sacramento.
Peja Stojakovic was constantly injured and could hit water if he fell out of a boat in pressure situations.
Besides Doug Christie, none of the Kings were willing to do the dirty work and play consistent defense especially at the end of games.
Maybe those things could be blamed on Rick Adelman.
Maybe he didn't prepare them enough for those big games or end of game situations
Maybe he didn’t coach them well enough on how to deal with that pressure.
Maybe he didn't choose his rotations very well and didn't incorporate his younger players enough. As a side note, this was the criticism that held the most water. He let talented young players like Hedo Turkoglu, Gerald Wallace and Kevin Martin languish away on the bench in favor of veterans like Jim Jackson and Bonzi Wells. He also won a ton of games during that time, so it is pretty hard to argue with his immediate results.
Adelman wasn't on the court to secure a rebound in Game Four of the 2002 Western Conference finals. He wasn't missing free throws throughout Game Seven of that same series. It is hardly his fault that fate decided Chris Webber's knee should be a casualty of the 2003 playoffs. Nor did he miss the game winning shot in Game Seven against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals.
Ultimately it is the players that win or lose during the big moments of games. It is the coach’s job to put them into a position to succeed or fail, and Adelman was quite adept at doing just that.
The Kings should be dismantled by a much more talented and well coached Rockets club in this game and every other game against them for the rest of the season. They have no one to blame but themselves. Adelman should do everything in his power to continue to stick it to the Kings.
In the bigger picture, the Kings are faced with yet another coaching search this off season. This will be the third time in four years that they have to go through this process, and it is all because they were impatient with the best coach their franchise has ever seen. They may never find another candidate as great as Rick Adelman, but Kings’ fans will continue to hope that history finds a way to repeat itself.