Rick Adelman deserved a better exit.
After winning 50 or more games for five consecutive seasons – including a 61-21 record in the 2001-02 season that ended agonizingly close to an NBA championship – Adelman was firedafter the Kings went 44-38 in 2005-06.
More accurately, Adelman was fired by the Maloof brothers – Joe and Gavin. Somebody said something about wanting a more defensive-mined coach, but in truth the relationship between coach and owners went from strained to irreparable.
The neon writing on the wall came the summer before, when the Maloofs courted Phil Jackson to coach their team with a year left on Adelman’s contract.
With as much job security as an NFL replacement referee, Adelman pushed through his final season. The Kings were 19-27 but finished 25-11 to reach the playoffs. After they lost to the Spurs in the first round, Adelman was fired.
On Monday in Minnesota, Adelman went out on his own terms, retiring at age 67 after 23 NBA seasons with Hall of Fame credentials: a 1,042-749 (.582) record, making him one of eight coaches to reach 1,000 wins.
In Sacramento, Adelman posted a franchise-best record of 395-229 (.633). And when it was over, he didn’t receive one phone call from a Maloof saying, “Thanks, Rick, but I’m sorry ... ”
While it may be too late for the Maloofs, it’s not too late for Sacramento. Next season, on a night when the Kings can get the band back together – Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie and Peja Stojakovic – the franchise should officially thank Adelman by hanging a banner bearing his name and the No. 395 in the rafters next to Nos. 4 (Webber) and 21 (Divac).
The Kings never had a better coach.