Longtime Celtics 'teacher' Rodgers is happy to move classroom to Minnesota

June 20, 1991|By Mary Schmitt | Mary Schmitt,Knight-Ridder

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jimmy Rodgers, who was introduced as the new coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves yesterday, has one vivid memory of his new team.

Two years ago, when Rodgers was in the second year of his two-year stint as coach of the Boston Celtics, he brought his team into the Twin Cities for a nationally televised game against the infant Wolves.

"The thing that stands out in my mind is that at our shootaround in the morning, when we went over our scouting report, all of us were talking about Tony Campbell. Obviously, it fell on deaf ears that particular day."

Campbell scored a career-high 44 points against the Celtics that night as the Wolves pulled off a 116-105 victory before a delirious crowd of 35,713.

"Kevin McHale was really mad," Rodgers recalled yesterday. "That was our first expansion loss and the only one I experienced in my two years with the ballclub.

"Usually, our team responded very well to that type of thing. I wouldn't say it was a humiliating experience. They just outplayed us that particular night. They were running and jumping. It was a very impressive performance on their part.

"The philosophy I gained from that was, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

A5 Rodgers did yesterday when he signed a three-year

contract and became the second head coach as the team enters its third season.

Rodgers, 48, replaces Bill Musselman, who was fired April 22 after compiling a 51-113 record in two seasons.

Musselman's dismissal came at least in part from placing too much emphasis on winning and not enough on building for the future and developing younger players, the stated philosophy of the Wolves.

"This is a young team," said Rodgers, who has met few of the Wolves players. "This team fits my personality well. It's what I do best. I consider myself a teacher, a communicator. This young team has to be developed, improved, moved to another level. We want to put the pieces together for a championship-caliber team."

He had that in his 10 years in Boston, including eight as an assistant coach and four doubling as director of player personnel. During his tenure, the Celtics won three NBA championships, five Eastern Conference titles and seven Atlantic Division crowns.

Still, this past season was a difficult one for him. For the first time in 20 years, Rodgers was out of the NBA.

"To be on the outside looking in was a very new experience," said Rodgers, who spent 10 years with the Cleveland Cavaliers before joining the Celtics. "That's why I'm thrilled to death to be here. The NBA is very special. Having been away for one year told me one thing: Get back into it, because I love it."

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