Rick Adelman and the Rockets Agree to Disagree
The press release was entitled "Rockets Agree to Part Ways with Rick Adelman," and read like this:
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that the team and Head Coach Rick Adelman have mutually agreed to part ways.
"After numerous discussions and careful consideration with Coach Adelman, we have mutually agreed to part ways," said Morey. "It has been a privilege and an honor to work with and learn from Rick during these past four years. He is a Hall of Fame coach who earned the respect and admiration of our entire organization during his time here. These situations are always difficult, but we would like to personally thank Rick and his staff for their efforts the past four seasons and we wish them the best in their future pursuits."
If you're looking for a pop culture reference, think the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry revealed that he and fiancée Jenny (played by Janeane Garofalo) decided to call off their engagement by simultaneously saying they hate each other.
"It was the world's first mutual breakup!!"
That's kind of what this was, all the way down to it being the first mutual breakup that I can remember in sports. Every other parting of the ways I can remember in any sport was the result of a termination, a coach leaving for greener pastures (including retirement), or a coach leaving for medical reasons.
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Truth be told, this had been rumored to be coming for a while. Adelman is an old-school coach who managed his roster and his game flow by feel and rhythm, which runs contrary to the stat-driven world Daryl Morey lives in, where the numbers only lie in very brief spells. Eventually, the data is the truth.
Additionally, Morey had been constantly tinkering with the roster the last couple years, trying to position the team to eventually make a big move that would position it to be a title contender once again. While the roster in Morey's world appeared to be more a list of assets, Adelman was still the one who had to somehow make those parts work night in and night out, which put a strain on everyone.
At age 64, Adelman has been to an NBA Finals, and if he's going to keep coaching, my guess is he wants a ring. That wasn't coming any time soon in Houston.
Rick Adelman leaves here with the highest winning percentage in Rockets' history (.588), a 22-game winning streak in 2008, and a legacy of maximizing the talent on a roster that the last two seasons had holes the size of Yao Ming's feet. If you look at the Rockets, it's hard to find a rotation player who didn't finish the season playing at or above expectations, and as a result, most fans thought Adelman performed above expectations.
So what's the problem? Well, not to oversimplify, but the Rockets need better players. Certainly, they need some size up front. The clock has probably run out (and may have long ago for some fans) on the contracts of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady (and their corresponding faulty body parts) and "bad luck" being used as a reason the Rockets can't get back to NBA relevancy.
If anyone now has the bull's eye on him, it's Morey. He needs to figure this puzzle out. It's that simple. Find players (which is significantly less simple).
If you're keeping track at home (and if the empty seats at Minute Maid Park and the Toyota Center are any indication, you stopped keeping track and caring a long time ago), since the Chicago White Sox finished off the Astros in the World Series in 2005, your three major league Houston teams have competed in four rounds of their respective postseasons (all by the Rockets, by the way).
In that same timeframe, the three teams have hired four new head coaches/managers (Gary Kubiak, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills, and Adelman). With the Rockets and Adelman deciding to part ways yesterday, the "new Houston head man" count since 2005 will surpass "playoff rounds participated in" once the Rockets identify his successor.
Man, that's a depressing reminder of the sports cesspool we're all swimming in right now.
And yet, I almost feel bad lumping the Rockets in with the Texans and Astros in any type of Houston sports composite statistic, even if it's just done to illustrate the level of absurdity that the collective sports ineptitude in town has reached.
The Rockets do almost everything right. They've drafted well for where they've been picking in the draft, most of their trades have been positive, they're a professionally run team, the owner is not afraid to make a change or spend money, and the general manager is typically the smartest guy in the room.
But they were 43-39 last season. Not. Good. Enough.
Adelman's departure this week closes the door on the ripple effect of Yao Ming's busted feet. It's time to turn the page, and it will start with a new coach.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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