Rick Adelman passes Sacramento Kings torch to Michael Malone

Rick Adelman unhappy with officiating during the Kings/T-Wolves match-up in late April 2014. (Photo: Kimani David)
Rick Adelman doesn’t normally go out of his way to reach out to young, up-and-coming head coaches in this league. An intensely private person, Adelman usually keeps his cards close to the vest.

But this past year, he made an exception.

Before the 2013-14 season tipped off, Adelman extended his hand to Sacramento Kings head coach Michael Malone. He made a conscious effort to offer advice and counsel to the man taking over the franchise he once captained.

“He was calling on behalf of some of the people he had worked with with the Kings,” Malone said of his talks with Adelman. “But we moved on and talked about basketball and life, if you will. I’ve always respected him from afar, but never gotten a real chance to know him. I enjoyed those conversations and he’s a hell of a coach.”

Malone is tasked with bringing the Kings back to respectability, something that’s alluded them since Adelman’s days with the organization. Following Adelman’s departure, the Kings haven’t come anywhere close to sniffing the postseason, posting eight-straight losing seasons since he left the franchise in 2006.

In Malone’s first year at the helm, Sacramento finished with a 28-54 record. Those in the organization believe the culture is changing and Adelman would likely agree. The 67-year-old former Kings coach feels that the franchise is in good hands with Malone.

“I think he’s gonna be a good coach,” Adelman said recently of Malone “They made a trade in the middle of the year. They got rid of half their team and sent them to Toronto, so that’s always an adjustment. But (like) I said, they have pieces to build around, very good young pieces.”

Adelman believes that Malone did a stand-up job keeping the Kings engaged throughout a season of change. A total of 23 players suited up for the Kings this year due to a number of trades and moves that shook up Sacramento’s roster.

“He’s keeping them playing,” Adelman said of Malone before the conclusion of the regular season. “They have a young team. I don’t think you can really judge a guy by one year. They’re trying to build a team up here and start it all over. But they certainly, with (DeMarcus) Cousins and Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay now, they have three guys that they can build around. So you gotta give them time to work with those guys.”

Malone hopes to have success during his tenure as Kings coach, but also knows he can’t recreate the exact  same magic that took place during Adelman’s time at the helm. In eight seasons with the Kings, Adelman compiled a 395-229 record. The Kings made the postseason every season during his tenure and won 50 or more games in five of his eight years with the franchise, cementing him as the greatest coach in the organization’s history.

After much speculation surrounding his future with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Adelman announced his retirement from the coaching ranks on Monday. With 1042 career wins in 23 seasons, the 67-year-old former Kings coach leaves the game as the eighth winningest coach in NBA history.

“He’s been doing it at a very high level for many, many years,” Malone said of Adelman. “More important than all the wins he has as a coach, I sincerely hope that he and his family are okay and that his wife’s okay, because that’s more important than anything.”

It’s been eight years and six different coaches since Adelman left the Kings. The franchise has tried desperately to find an able successor with little success. If Adelman’s praise of Malone means anything, maybe the Kings finally have finally found a worthy replacement.

Adam Silver on Adelman’s retirement

Via the Timberwolves, the NBA commissioner issued the following statement on the former Kings head coach’s departure from the game:

“Rick Adelman established himself as one of our game’s great coaches, manning the NBA sidelines for the better part of a quarter century,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “One of only eight coaches in our history to amass 1,000 victories, Rick’s versatility and rapport with his players ultimately led to that legacy of success. On behalf of the NBA, I would like to thank Rick for his extraordinary service to the league.”

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.