SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Rick Adelman had been fired twice before, yet the longtime Sacramento Kings coach felt a particular pang of regret when he got dumped again this week after eight successful seasons.
Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof have their own regrets: They want a championship for Sacramento, and they plan to find a coach capable of winning it.
Adelman was dismissed by the Maloof brothers on Tuesday after leading the Kings to eight consecutive playoff appearances, the longest sustained run of success in franchise history. He went 395-229 in Sacramento, winning its first two Pacific Division titles and going as far as Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference finals.
"I feel like I should have been given another opportunity, but any time a guy gets fired or let go, that's how they feel," Adelman said Wednesday at the Kings' training complex. "I like the team. I liked the direction we were going. We like it here. It would be fun to have another year or two to see what we could do."
In his first public comments since the decision, Adelman said he didn't know whether he would coach again -- and he still professed ignorance about the Maloofs' reasons for firing him.
"Maybe I didn't win the way they wanted the team to win, I don't know," said Adelman, who has 752 career victories, 14th-most in NBA history. "Whatever reasons they can give me, I can give them 10 better that they're wrong, but that doesn't matter.
"Maybe they thought we should beat San Antonio. If they did, they're probably the only people in the country. There has to be something else."
Joe Maloof said there was something else: The Kings' perennial problems with defense, which the owners saw as the biggest obstacle to their goal of winning a championship in Sacramento.
"I think the only major complaint is how much (Adelman) worked on his defense," Maloof told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Not that we're in practice, but the only way you're going to win that big title is with defense. That's what you see with Detroit, and what we saw with the Spurs. I think the new coach needs to be more defensive-oriented, but one that understands offense."
Sacramento was eliminated from the playoffs last Friday, losing in six games to top-seeded San Antonio. It was the Kings' second straight first-round playoff exit -- but given their remarkable midseason transformation, it was widely seen as cause for celebration.
The Kings won 25 of their final 36 regular-season games to reach the playoffs, spurred by the arrival of Ron Artest in a midseason trade also masterminded by the Maloofs. The owners have recently taken a more active interest in team moves after years of allowing Geoff Petrie, the Kings' highly respected president of basketball operations, to run the team unfettered.
"We are a little more confident, and we know the league a little bit better," said Maloof, whose father owned the Houston Rockets at one time. "We've been thinking about [a coaching change] for the past year. We had that very tough start at the beginning of the year, and we didn't really know what to do. The franchise was kind of in the abyss. It wasn't the same old Kings franchise.
"We had a pretty good run, eight years, and [Adelman] did a great job. ... We thought we gave it a good shot with Rick, but sometimes it's better to make a change."
Maloof said Petrie will put together a list of candidates this week, and the brothers will join him for interviews, perhaps as early as this weekend.
A top rumored candidate is Don Nelson, the veteran NBA coach who stayed home in Maui this season after leaving the Dallas Mavericks late in the 2004-05 campaign. The 66-year-old has 1,190 victories -- second-most in league history -- and would be a flashy hire, but Maloof wasn't sure his friend is right for the job.
"With Nellie, we know he's a tremendous coach, but I don't know how he is on defense, and I say that with respect to him," Maloof said. "All I remember are those Maverick teams, and they reminded me of the Kings teams. That's great, but I think we need someone more defensive-oriented."
Other top rumored candidates include Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who followed Adelman both in Portland and Golden State; Washington coach Eddie Jordan, the first Kings coach under Petrie who hasn't received a contract extension from the Wizards; and Eric Musselman, the Memphis assistant who led Golden State to two surprisingly successful seasons before getting fired.
Adelman thinks he might stay in Sacramento for another year until his son finishes high school. After that, he might even be ready to leave the West Coast, where he has spent his entire career, for a new challenge.
He discounted the idea of coaching a college team, saying, "That's something I think I'm too old for ... [but] a situation might come up that would be more of an adventure than the others. I think I'd like to stay involved in some capacity with a team. I'm going to let it play out, and things usually work out for the best." http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...ings.coach.ap/