Adams Is Taking His Shot Courtside
Ex-Bullet and New Mystics Coach Gets Chance to Prove Himself All Over Again
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 22, 2004; Page D01
Chamique Holdsclaw remembers one thing, above all else, about the NBA career of Michael Adams, her new coach with the Washington Mystics.
"That ugly shot," Holdsclaw said with a smile. "I was amazed at how small he was, and how he could get that shot off. Oh, it was so ugly, but it went in."
That funny-looking, herky-jerky push shot may be the first image that comes to mind when Adams's name is mentioned. But the former Washington Bullet hopes that tonight -- when the Mystics open their WNBA season at home against the Charlotte Sting -- marks the start of a new chapter and a new image, that of a successful coach.
Adams is the Mystics' seventh head coach in as many seasons. He is one of five former NBA players coaching in the WNBA (Detroit's Bill Laimbeer, Los Angeles' Michael Cooper, Indiana's Brian Winters and San Antonio's Dee Brown are the others). This is his first head coaching job at any level, and this is the first time that he has coached women.
"Coaching basketball is coaching basketball," Adams said. "I just thought [coaching] was something in my blood to do. When you're a point guard for 10 or 11 years in the league, you're an extension of the coach. You feel like a coach."
The Mystics are hoping that the same characteristics that the 5-foot-10 guard displayed in his 11-year NBA career will serve him well in his new position as the coach of a team that finished last in the Eastern Conference with a 9-25 record in 2003.
"He's an overachiever," said Judy Holland-Burton, the senior vice president of business and basketball operations for the Mystics. "He wasn't supposed to have success in professional basketball because he was too small. But he always overcame those things. He worked hard. He got the job done. We were very impressed with that."
Adams had a standout high school career in Hartford, Conn., but received virtually no Division I scholarship offers. He ended up at Boston College, where he played for Gary Williams, ended his career as the school's fifth-leading scorer, and had his jersey retired.
"Mike was spectacular at Boston College when he played for me," said Williams, now the coach at Maryland. "I think people tend to overlook his intelligence. When you're 5-10, 5-11, and you're in the NBA, it's more than pure talent. It's intelligence."
He was selected in the third round of the 1985 draft by Sacramento, but was cut after only 18 games. Adams played in the Continental Basketball Association and then hooked on with the Washington Bullets in the summer of 1986. The Bullets cut him in September, re-signed him four days later, re-cut him in October and then re-signed him again three weeks later.
Adams averaged 7.2 points as a reserve for Washington in the 1986-87 season. Then in the offseason, the Bullets traded him to Denver. Adams flourished with the Nuggets, averaging 26.5 points and 10.5 assists per game during the 1990-91 season. He returned to Washington the following year and was named to the all-star team.
"It's happened my whole career, from high school to college to the pros," Adams said. "I didn't get anything handed to me. I always have that frame of mind -- that hard work pays off. I try to prove people wrong. It's no different in this coaching situation."
Adams retired from the NBA in 1996, and put his communications degree to work by becoming a radio and television analyst for the Bullets.
But coaching is what he really wanted to try, and in 1999, he became an assistant with the International Basketball League's Richmond Rhythm. He jumped to the NBA the following year, and worked as an assistant with the Vancouver (now Memphis) Grizzlies until the end of the 2001-02 season.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company