- Associated Press - Monday, April 18, 2011

HOUSTON (AP) - Rick Adelman is out as coach of the Houston Rockets.

The team will not renew Adelman’s contract for next season, according to a person familiar with the decision who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Monday because the team had not made an official announcement.

KRIV-TV and the Houston Chronicle first reported the decision.

The 64-year-old Adelman went 193-135 in four seasons with the Rockets and led them to their only playoff series victory since 1997. His career record is 945-616 and ranks eighth in career victories.

Adelman accepted the Houston job in 2007 and envisioned building a championship contender around Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. By the end of Adelman’s first season, both All-Stars had injuries that would require surgery.

With Yao healthy and McGrady still hurting, Houston reached the Western Conference semifinals in 2008-09, snapping a streak of seven consecutive first-round exits for the franchise.

Yao broke his left foot in the playoffs and underwent surgery that would keep him out of the entire 2009-10 season. The Rockets went 42-40 without him and missed the postseason.

The Rockets traded McGrady to New York in February 2010, and Yao played only five games in 2010-11 before he was sidelined again, this time with a stress fracture in his left ankle.

Houston went 17-8 after the All-Star break and fell short of the playoffs again, despite a 43-39 record.

The Rockets made a flurry of roster moves in Adelman’s tenure and consistently ranked among the league’s highest-scoring teams. Kevin Martin emerged as the leading scorer, and the surrounding starters were Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Kyle Lowry and Chase Budinger.

Although the Rockets were always competitive, Adelman couldn’t help but think about what could have been.

“I look at the team today,” Adelman said in late February. “In 3 1/2 years since I came here, we have only two guys left, Luis and Chuck. That’s not a lot of stability. I came to coach Yao and Tracy and ended up with Luis and Chuck.

“It is kind of amazing those are the only two guys left,” Adelman said. “I told them, ‘This is the group we have. What are you going to make of it?’ That is the same approach I have to take.”

The Rockets will search for their third coach since 2003, when Rudy Tomjanovich stepped down for health reasons. Jeff Van Gundy coached the team from 2003-07, guiding it to three playoff appearances.

Houston’s current players uniformly raved about Adelman in their exit meetings with team management and lobbied for the Rockets to bring him back.

Adelman came to the Rockets after guiding Portland to two NBA finals in the early 1990s, missing the playoffs in two disappointing seasons in Golden State, then transforming Sacramento into a perennial contender in the Western Conference in the early 2000s.

His contract was not renewed after the 2005-06, and Adelman sat out a year. He mulled several options in 2007 and decided the Rockets job was the most appealing _ under the assumption that Yao and McGrady would stay healthy.

“At the time, I was talking to two or three teams, and this was obviously, the best situation,” he said. “Those guys were here. They had won 50-plus games.

“I had three experiences (before Houston),” he said. “At two, I had a lot of talent and at one, I didn’t. I won at two places and didn’t win at the other. I figured it out that talent is pretty important, especially if you have a unique blend of a big guy who’s one of the best in the league and a perimeter player who’s one of the best in the league.”

Now, Adelman will take time to ponder his next move. He said in the last week of the Rockets‘ season that he still has a passion for the job.

“I don’t think I’ve lost the desire to coach; I think I still can do it,” Adelman said. “This team has been a lot of fun. It’s been tough during the season. I tell people that, when you go through it, it’s not so easy. But when you work with a group of guys who just won’t quit, and play above and beyond what people expect them to do, that’s a lot of fun when you look back on it.”