As was rumored earlier in the week and first reported by the Los Angeles Times and now is being confirmed by Marc Stein at ESPN, the Timberwolves have hammered out a 4-year, $8+ million deal with Kurt Rambis to be their new head coach.
Personally I didn’t really have a preference between Mark Jackson and Rambis. Jackson having no coaching experience was more of a roll of the dice to see what you might get and I would have been happily on board as I think he will be a good coach when he does get the call.
However Kahn went with Rambis as his choice for the Timberwolves head coach so let’s take a look at what he brings to the bench. What I like about Rambis right off the bat is that he has always been surrounded by success in the NBA and owns seven championship rings, 4 as a player and 3 as a coach. He has played for Pat Riley alongside Magic and Kareem and has been an assistant under arguably the best coach in the NBA in Phil Jackson with whom he’s coached Kobe and Shaq. The fact that sucess breeds success in the NBA is something I think that goes underrated. Sam Presti is doing a bang-up job in Oklahoma City because he learned it first in San Antonio. So is Kevin Pritchard in Portland. When you are around successful teams you learn how to emulate them and bring with you a blue-print for success. Rambis also brings actual coaching experience as an assistant for the Lakers for 10 years as well as experience from a short stint as head coach of the Lakers in 1999 during the lock-out shortened season where he went 24-13 before being swept by the NBA champions Spurs in the second round that year. Something I also really like on his resume: he’s been a coach with Kobe and Shaq on the team where he has seen the best at their best but more importantly at their worst, which is invaluable experience in the league in my opinion. Perhaps his best endorsement comes from Mark Madsen who thinks that Rambis will make a great Wolves coach:
Given that I’ve known Kurt Rambis for over 9 years and given that I played for the Timberwolves, I can say that Rambis would be an unbelievable fit in Minnesota. Obviously there are other candidates as well, including Mark Jackson who would be a phenomenal selection too.
Rambis bring [sic] with him the coaching pedigree which includes playing for Pat Riley and coaching alongside Phil Jackson. I think that he would be able to meld the Pat Riley “culture” of strict discipline and crisp execution with the “read and react” philosophy of Phil Jackson who drills the Triangle every day in practice and then let’s the players govern themselves in some degree once the game starts.
The other intangible that Rambis would bring to the table is a scrappy style of play that would reflect his own playing days. I remember Kurt told me that one year when he was playing for the Lakers, some so-called experts were saying that the Lakers “could not win a championship with Kurt Rambis at the power forward.” He ended up proving them wrong and even scored close to 20 points in one of the championship games under the pressure of such a large stage. He has a great knowledge of playing the post position and would be that much more attuned to giving feedback to key players like Kevin Love and Al Jefferson.
I do think that Kurt would coach an up-tempo and hard-nosed style of play which would be well appreciated by the Minnesota Fans. I saw reports months ago that Rambis turned down the Sacramento King head coaching job due to a variety of factors. Kurt Rambis is a complete family man, and a man whose knowledge of the game is huge. If David Kahn names Kurt Rambis as the head coach, I think both the players and the fans are going to like the decision.
Overall I think the Wolves did well to get arguably the #1 free agent coach and am excited to see how Rambis fills out the rest of his staff.
One last positive from this news: Glen Taylor again shows his commitment to the team by giving Rambis the deal that supposedly Sacramento would not.