Former Portlander, son of ex-Trail Blazers coach, making his mark with Magic
He is the coach's kid no longer. David Adelman is beyond that. He is making a name for himself.
The former Trail Blazers ball boy, Jesuit High point guard and Lincoln High head coach is in his sixth year as an NBA assistant coach and in his first season on the Orlando staff. He'll make his return to Portland on Friday night, when the Magic face the Blazers at Moda Center.
It's a special homecoming for Adelman, 35, who grew up here as one of six children of former Blazers head coach Rick Adelman. David will see his parents, Rick and Mary Kay, who have made their permanent home in Portland since Rick's retirement from coaching two years ago. David also will convene with four of his five siblings who live here — sisters Kathy, Caitlin and Laura and brother Pat, the latter in his second season as head coach at Lincoln — along with eight nieces and nephews.
"Can't wait to get home," David says via phone from Orlando. "I haven't been back since April. It will be nice to see family. Portland is home. I miss it. That's where I'll end up someday."
Rick Adelman served as a head coach in the NBA for 23 seasons, including 6 1/2 in Portland, taking the Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1990 and '92. Adelman ranks eighth on the NBA coaches career list with 1,042 victories and seems bound for the Naismith Hall of Fame.
David Adelman knows he is unlikely to match his father's success, but he is carving out his own niche.
"He's a hidden gem," Orlando head coach Frank Vogel said earlier this season. "Very talented. Very bright in terms of his basketball mind."
Vogel caught wind of Adelman three years ago at Tim Grgurich's annual summer camp for players and coaches in Las Vegas. Adelman was delivering a talk on the motion offense. Vogel was in the audience.
"He came up and said some kind words afterward," Adelman recalls. "I think that's what got me an interview (for a coaching position with the Magic)."
After the Wolves hired Tom Thibodeau as head coach following last season, Adelman learned he wouldn't be back with the club. Over the summer, he interviewed with Denver, Indiana and Sacramento and turned down one job offer for the opportunity to work in Orlando with Vogel, who provided some security with a three-year contract.
"I got lucky landing with Coach Vogel," Adelman says. "It's fun to help rebuild a program with a group of younger coaches. He gives you a lot of opportunity to coach and teach.
"I can see why he had the success he did at Indiana. He has a great feel for each individual player. It's rare to see an NBA head coach take the time to get to know each guy and care about their experience on the team — and that's for the guys who are playing, and the guys who are not.
"That's a big deal, especially with how long the season is. Staying consistent with that takes a lot of energy. He does a great job."
After beginning his coaching career with a five-year stint as an assistant at Jesuit, Adelman served five years as head coach at Lincoln, leading the Cardinals to three Portland Interscholastic League titles and the 2009 Class 6A championship game.
Adelman then joined his father as a player development coach for two years in Minnesota. He was promoted to assistant coach the third year under his dad, then spent two years as an assistant under the late Flip Saunders, then Sam Mitchell with the Timberwolves. Adelman has been lauded for his work helping develop young talent such as Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine.
"Coach Mitchell was so giving in terms of the opportunity to work with the young guys we had there," Adelman says. "I owe him a lot. He did a hell of a better job last season than people realize."
Adelman served three years as the Timberwolves' head coach during the Las Vegas Summer League.
"There's no substitute for the experience of being a head coach," he says. "I'm talking about at any level. A head coach is a head coach. Summer league is just a short period of time, but you learn a lot about yourself, what you're good at and what you're not good at. I loved that opportunity."
Adelman is working under his fourth head coach in four years. He says he has drawn from all the coaches he has worked under, and includes fellow assistants such as Terry Porter, Jack Sikma, T.R. Dunn, Sidney Lowe and Chad Forcier.
"There are so many ways to get it done," Adelman says. "I've learned different ideas about organizing a staff and practices and relationships with players and terminology and how to get a point across. Outside of the tragedy of losing Coach Saunders, it's been a blessing for me."
Adelman may never get the opportunity to follow in his father's footstep as an NBA head coach, but he'd like to one day run his own show. He's not averse to coaching college ball. Two years ago, Adelman completed requirements online for a college degree in history.
"I want to be a head coach again at some level someday," he says. "I really enjoy it. Every level has similarities. We were so young in Minnesota, I felt like we were coaching a college team. I remember telling Zach before a game his rookie year, 'You were playing high school ball 13 months ago.'
"What I'm doing right now is very fulfilling. When I started out in Minnesota, I just thought it would be cool to learn from my dad on a day-to-day basis. Now, it's turned out to be a career. If it turned out (that he would become an NBA head coach), it would be amazing. If it were college or high school, that would be OK, too. I just love to get into a gym and try to get my team better."
Adelman's career path has gone through some bumps in the road. During his time at Lincoln, he got a DUI — his second — after a parent-hired private investigator reported him driving drunk to Portland police. Younger brother Pat also had a rocky moment at Lincoln, serving out a suspension last season after a locker-room incident with racial implications.
"That's so far from who Pat is," David says. "He has qualities I didn't have when I started coaching. I was hard-nosed. I pushed our guys. Pat is so positive. That's why the story was so sad."
But Adelman is married now, the father of two children, son L.J., 3, and daughter Lennan, 1. He says he is a different person from when he was coaching the Cardinals.
"The main thing I learned from all that stuff, you don't get to choose the story of your life," he says. "You're going to have ups and downs. You want to learn from those down times, to never let them happen again, to not let them affect your future in a negative way.
"The worst thing in the world is when people you care about have to answer for you. I don't want to ever do that again."