It’s conceivable that no player or coach in the NBA has logged more miles than Warriors assistant Ron Adams.
After traveling the league’s skyways and highways for more than 30 years, with eight different franchises, he can glimpse his career horizon.
Adams has spent eight years with the Warriors and is preparing for his ninth and possibly final season as a fixture in a gym.
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“This next year might be my last year,” he recently told NBC Sports Bay Area. “But I can’t say that either because that’s not how I live my life. There are no firm dates for things to simply end.”
Adams, 74, has been consistent in saying he and his wife, Leah, can’t imagine leaving the Bay Area or working for another organization. This stop will be his career denouement.
So, it seems timely that the full scope of Adams’ work is recognized by his peers. He will on Tuesday receive the Tex Winter Assistant Coach Lifetime Impact Award, presented by the National Basketball Coaches Association.
“Ron Adams embodies everything that makes a great coach,” Rick Carlisle, Pacers coach and president of the NBCA, said in a statement. “He is passionate about teaching, has a great basketball IQ, a tireless work ethic, fierce loyalty and a deep love for the game.”
Golden State Warriors
Warriors coach Steve Kerr credits Adams for much of the success the team has enjoyed.
“He has been amazing from helping shape our defensive identity to giving me ‘head coaching advice,’” Kerr texted to NBC Sports Bay Area on Monday night. “Most of all, he’s a wonderful human being who I love seeing and talking with every day.”
Adams conceded that he was taken by surprised last week when Carlisle phoned him to inform him of the award last week took him by surprise.
“I was rather speechless,” he said. “It’s just really gratifying. It’s great to be recognized and honored. It’s humbling. There are so many great coaches out there. That this is coming from my peers makes it really meaningful.”
Adams began coaching at Fresno Pacific College in 1969. After 22 seasons at the college level, including head-coaching stints at Fresno Pacific and Fresno State University, he entered the NBA when hired by Jerry Tarkanian during his brief stop with the Spurs in 1992.
From there, Adams headed for the 76ers in 1994, enduring two difficult but enlightening seasons. He worked two seasons as a Trail Blazers scout and returned to coaching with the Bucks under George Karl in 1998. After five seasons in Milwaukee – with four playoff appearances – he landed with the rebuilding Bulls in 2003. It was on to Thunder in 2008, during which the team rebuilt behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
“It was a young program,” Adams recalled. “The fans there were tremendous, and we had wonderful, wonderful talent; we had three MVPs. That was great experience.”
Adams returned to Chicago in 2010 and spent three seasons there before being lured to Boston by first-time NBA coach Brad Stevens. After one season, and still under contract with the Celtics, Adams was pried away by another first-time NBA coach: Steve Kerr with the Warriors.
“I wanted the best defensive mind I could find,” Kerr texted. “And I needed his experience, since I had none.”
Through it all, Adams’ specialty has been defense.
“From Day 1 when I started coaching – but even as a player – I had a defensive mentality,” he said. “Even as green behind the ears as I was when I started coaching, I held as a premise that you had to play substantially good to great defense to win anything.”
Kerr installed Adams as the team’s defensive coordinator, and the Warriors responded with four consecutive seasons as a top-four defense. For five consecutive seasons (2014-19) he was named the league’s best assistant coach in the annual survey of NBA general managers.
“Coach Adams’ contributions to the success of his teams, most recently with the Golden State Warriors, are well known inside the NBA,” NBCA executive director David Fogel said in a statement. “Off the court, Ron’s sage advice and wisdom has helped many players, coaches and executives excel in their own careers.”
With six postseason appearances and four NBA Finals triumphs in eight seasons, Golden State has been the most fruitful of Adams’ ventures.
“When I look back at it, there’s nothing like winning a championship,” he said. “But it’s the work you put in and then it’s the gratification afterward that makes it so special. It’s nice to have a ring; the ring is meaningful. But this kind of stuff is in your heart. You can’t describe it.”
Adams was selected from a list of 13 candidates and is the sixth assistant to receive the Winter award, which will be presented during the Warriors-Celtics Summer League game in Las Vegas.