Moving Forward: The End of the Rambis Era

Let’s start this by wishing Kurt Rambis farewell. He always seemed to be a nice enough guy who just happened to be playing checkers while everyone else was playing chess.

To be fair, the T-Wolves’ struggles weren’t entirely Rambis’ fault. He inherited a very bad team when he took over. The following season, that team’s personel went from very bad to very young and injured.

But he wouldn’t give up on that damn Triangle offense, even while it clearly wasn’t working. He was so obstinate about that particular set that it really seemed like he didn’t know any others to run. I’m sure he does, of course. (I hope.) So if we are going to celebrate the coaching change, let’s celebrate the exodus of the Triangle. Thank goodness. That evil offensive set has been banished back to the hell it came from. (You know, Los Angeles.)

Now David Kahn is faced with the unenviable task of finding a replacement.

Despite their lack of success in recent years, Minnesota’s roster should be surprisingly attractive to potential coaches. Their best player is a likable young star in Kevin Love. Their incoming rookies are both potential stars, Rubio and Williams. Their record last year was so bad that, barring some horrible injuries, a new coach seemingly could only improve record-wise (as I knock furiously on every piece of wood within reach.)

The problem, of course, is that Kurt Rambis has been dragged through the mud over the past few months, and many experts are wondering if any sane coach will want to work for a boss like Kahn.

Don Nelson, coach of the Golden State Warriors for roughly 250,000 seasons, reportedly is one coach unfazed by the exit wounds inflicted upon Rambis, and he seems like a strangely logical candidate, considering that Kahn wants Minnesota to play faster. This proposed strategy hasn’t been incredibly popular, as critics point out that Minnesota already plays very uptempo, and they proved last year that they don’t have the veteran leadership to pull it off. But the numbers are a bit deceptive, as pointed out by the intelligent men from A Wolf Among Wolves. Last year, the T-Wolves were first (or is it last? Whichever means “they were awful”) in turnovers and second in field goals attempted, while being 27th in field goal percentage.

Boiled down? The young Wolves turned the ball over way too much and took a lot of bad shots, pushing their possessions per game through the roof.

These numbers will improve considerably if Ricky Rubio proves himself to be a competent starting point guard. The two most-used point guards on the Timberwolves roster (Flynn and Ridnour) had an assist to turnover ratio of 13/7. That’s a decent amount of assists….and a rather incredible amount of turnovers. Ricky? All we are asking from you is competence at first; we aren’t asking you to be a savior. (Though if you feel like, you know, saving and stuff…that would be pretty cool too.)

But something needs to be done about that defense (30th in the NBA in opponents points per game, and 27th in points per 100 possessions), and Don Nelson is probably not the coach to do it. In his last four seasons with Golden State, the Warriors were last in opponent points per game every single year. Guys? We saw what that looked like last year, and it looked like 17-65. Not a lot of fun.

That being said, I don’t necessarily disagree with Kahn that Minnesota needs to run on offense. Rubio is rather famously an open-court style point guard. Beasley, Johnson, Randolph, and Williams are all fast and very athletic. Kevin Love might be the best rebounder/outlet passer since Wes Unseld. This team is pretty clearly built to move fast.

So how should they balance the two, from a coaching standpoint? According to SI’s Chris Mannix, my suggestion isn’t being considered. (How typical?) To the surprise of no one who knows me: I present Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank.

For starters: in case you forgot, the last Celtics assistant coach who went on to become a head coach was this year’s Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. If Frank came to the Timberwolves he wouldn’t have the star power of Derrick Rose that Thibodeau had to work with, but he would have arguably more talented pieces.

Frank spent the last season working with Doc Rivers, a mastermind of egos, rotations, NBA defenses, and plays out of a timeout. Frank himself knows NBA defenses; his first three years as an NBA head coach, his teams were in the top 6 in opponents PPG. And, as hard as it is to believe, the Timberwolves are actually going to have some talent next season. For the most part, with great talent comes tremendous egos, and having someone like Frank to keep things in check would be an excellent start.

The stain on Frank’s record? He was fired after the Nets started off 0-16 in their 2009-2010 campaign; a season in which, according to, Courtney Lee was their 3rd most productive player (seriously, go look it up), and injuries plagued them all year. But apparently, New Jersey’s players never quit on Frank, even while they were losing horribly.

From the New Jersey Star Ledger:

When a team is mired in an historic losing streak, the coach’s firing is hardly unexpected. Still, the Nets claimed they had not quit on Frank, who had a career 225-241 record, and he was largely a victim of injuries that had the team playing with as few as eight players some nights.

“I’m sure they’d like to fire some of the players if they could, but they did the easy thing and fired the coach,” Rafer Alston said. “We didn’t get it done. I take full responsibility for some of the games. The coach can’t put on the uniform and chase down the rebounds. We had to do it and didn’t get it done.”

Obviously, we are all hoping that the Wolves will be a much better team this year. But if they hired Lawrence Frank, it would be encouraging to know that even if they lost a lot of games, the players might stick by their coach the way New Jersey stuck by him.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to project how successful any coach will prove with a team, especially when the roster is as young as Minnesota’s. One can never really predict how a team and a coach will gel together as a unit. A coach provides the lineups, the rotations, and the plays, while the players do the performing. Only players can win games, but a coach can sure lose them.

Especially when the Triangle is involved.

Wolves make it official; Rambis fired

Here it is.

The Minnesota Timberwolves fired Kurt Rambis on Tuesday, ending more than three months of uncertainty and awkwardness surrounding the head coach of the worst team in the NBA last season.

Rambis was 32-132 in his brief stay in Minnesota, including 17-65 this past season.

Even though this does indeed end that period of uncertainty and downright awkwardness that ESPN called it, it’s assuring to have some clarity on the situation. And, ultimately, it’s nice to know that Kahn recognized that Rambis just wasn’t the man for the job, especially with even more young talent coming into a pool of already youth-sprung players, who Kurt had difficulty getting the best out of, let alone developing, the past two seasons.

Now the coaching search begins. Kahn’s been through it once before and Taylor many times before that. The only problem is that the Wolves waited so long to fire Rambis that many believe the top coaching prospects are already snapped up. That might be true on the surface but, as always, their could be that mysterious assistant that rises to the top to impress Kahn and Taylor.

That man could very well be in our own organization as we speak. Rumor has it that the Wolves believe that J.B. Bickerstaff, current assistant coach for the Wolves, has the potential to be a very good coach in the NBA one day. Kind of like an Eric Spoelstra situation Miami has. The problem? He’s only a tender 32 years of age. Pair his inexperience along with a team full of youngsters and it just feels like pandemonium could break loose — as if it already hasn’t.

There will be more coming from Howlin’ T-Wolf as the coaching search commences, that is for sure. For now, let’s leave it at that and throw somewhat of a mini-celebration in the departing of one of the biggest losers in Minnesota Timberwolves’ coaching history, Kurt Rambis. Farewell, Kurt.

Kurt Rambis passes on an opportunity

Rambis+Glasses.jpg (608×262)

Poor Kurt.

So this is…something, at least worth reporting, even though we all can agree the situation is rather cumbersome and downright embarrassing.

Apparently, David Kahn wants to remove Kurt Rambis as head coach of the Timberwolves and put him to work in the front office rather than buying out his contract.

Rambis is hesitant to agree to this particular arrangement because, well, (how can I put this lightly?) he thinks David Kahn is wrong and he hates him. Or so it seems to our perspective.

From Sporting News:

After keeping him in the dark on whether he’d be retained as coach well into June, the Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly offered Kurt Rambis another post after reports surfaced in late June that he was to be fired.

According to Yahoo! Sports, Minnesota owner David Kahn wanted Rambis to close out his remaining two years and $4 million in the Timberwolves front office. Sources told Yahoo! that Rambis is reluctant to consider the job because he doesn’t see eye to eye with Kahn on basketball matters and also dislikes him personally.

I can’t see why Rambis is conflicted about this at all. Honestly, if the only downsides to a job are a drawn-out, condescending waiting period followed by a humiliating demotion, no job security whatsoever after two years when your current contract runs out, and constantly clashing with your boss who you don’t like as a human being, well. Seems like you HAVE to jump on an opportunity like that, doesn’t it?

Seriously, though, it’s about time Kahn grew a pair and pulled the trigger on this whole unpleasant spectacle. Rambis’ win-loss record may not have earned him much over the past two years, but it certainly earned him the right to be fired in a timely, respectful manner. Whether they believe that they’ll be saving money or not by making this decision until after the lockout, it’s all seemingly a bit disastrous and, well, simply rude on Kahn’s part.

This needs to end.

So, who's the coach?

Kurt Rambis: Head Coach or not?

It’s been 51 days since the Timberwolves’ season ended and yet there’s still no clarity into who the head coach for the ’11-’12 season will be.

In the meantime, Kurt Rambis, with two years still remaining on his contract, has had no problem in being who he’s supposed to be, even if it means showing up when desperately unwanted. Although Rambis missed the NBA Draft combine in Chicago last week, he was present for the Wolves first draft workouts as well as today’s free agent workout.

“The way I see it — I’m doing my job,” Rambis said today at the Target Center. “I’m still the coach of this team until something happens otherwise.”

In what seemed like a shock at the moment, Rambis actually talked to the local media in attendance today. Perhaps the plan was to show his side of the story, a story which has turned into a huge soap-opera ever since the end of the season. Rambis said that he and Kahn still need to have a substantial conversation about his future with this franchise. They’ve only had “minor conversations” since season’s end.

This whole situation is starting remind me an awful lot like that friend who’s been dismissed from the group but always has a knack of finding his way back in. The only difference: These are grown men with real jobs acting unbelievably childish over a situation that can be resolved with a simple Donald Trump line: You’re fired!

It could be that easy, and perhaps should be. Rambis is the Timberwolves’ worst coach in history given his record. He’s only won 32 games in the past two seasons and sports the league’s worst losing percentage.

Really, though, why is this dragging out for so long? Perhaps Kahn and Taylor already have their mind made up and are just looking to focus on the draft, but still, it seems like they’re taking the wrong approach at going about this. Shedding off something as important as choosing your head coach isn’t right, especially before the draft where the head coach could give some insight into. Jerry Zgoda, Timberwolves beat writer for the Star Tribune, asked if the situation could be tied to the pending lockout hanging over our heads and Rambis said, “Don’t know.”

It seems to me that the situation is just being handled improperly altogether. “It’s not how I would handle it, no…I think everybody has reasons for why they conduct their business in the way they want to conduct their business,” Rambis said. “If you’re asking me if that’s what I’d do, no. That’s not how I would handle things, but everybody’s different.”

Sounds like someone thinks the same.

The reason for this immature standoff or David Kahn’s silence could be literally anything. At least Rambis is still interested in resolving the issue. At least he’s showing the motivation to go to these workouts to analyze and do his job as the head coach of this team. For me, this is enough evidence to let him come back for a year, barring he makes some changes with his assistants as well as his philosophy on offense (The Triangle-ish offense just ain’t working and will seriously suffocate Rubio’s creativity in the open court.) If someone is devoted enough to attend workouts where he probably doesn’t feel very welcomed says a lot about his character and his passion for his work. Even if he’s lost 100 more games than he’s won, he’s also had to work through some difficult roster building as well as a boss, who’s the league’s jester as well as afraid of conflict.

But now’s the time for a little conflict. The resolution of this team’s vision has gotten that much clearer with Rubio on his way. Now all they need is an established and enthusiastic coach who’s ready to lead this young team through thick and thin to growth and improvement and, ultimately, some wins. But seriously, who’s that gonna be? It’s about time we make that decision.

Rambis' job status

Yesterday I wrote my reasoning for why Rambis should be feeling the heat of potentially losing his job along with all of his assistants. I’ll be the first to admit that the piece may have been premature, especially after hearing some details form this morning.

ESPN Insider initially reported the potential danger of Rambis’ status of head coach, but since then has started to take a different stance.

Kevin LoveMartell Webster and Anthony Tolliver spoke to the media on Tuesday and they all said Rambis isn’t to blame for the Wolves poor season.

“It’s easy to say when you’re having a tough year,” Love told the Pioneer Press. “It’s not a direct reflection on him. It’s all on us being a young, youthful team. It’s unfair. As a player, I have Kurt’s back.”

“He gets blamed for everything because he’s the coach,” Tolliver said. “He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. It’s up to us out there on the floor to execute the game plan. As players, we have to take more accountability and responsibility for our actions.”

“He’s always putting the work in,” Webster said. “He and the staff never give us the short end of the stick and just throw us out there and say, ‘Whatever happens.’ We’re the ones who have to go out there and play. As players, we can always say the right things, but the proof is how you do on the court.”

Take this how you want, but the players are essentially doing and saying what they’re supposed to. With a GM infatuated with younger, newer players, these guys are supposed to say things like this in order to get the most burn on the court in the final 12 games of the season. No player in their right mind would speak out against their coach at the end of the season unless there was serious turmoil from before that just needed to explode out to the public, but in these players’ cases, all of them are just looking for job security, even Love, who’s looking for a contract extension in Minny (Say he speaks out negatively against Rambis, he could very well find himself following the same path as Big Al).

So no matter what the players say, it comes down to the front office’s opinion.

President of basketball operations David Kahn refuted the report that Kurt Rmabis could be fired after the season and that Kelvin Sampson could be his replacement.

“The notion of Kelvin Sampson is completely false,” Kahn told the Pioneer Press, via the Timberwolves media relations director Mike Cristaldi. “That report is not true in all aspects.”

Rambis didn’t seem too concerned about his job security.

Ok, so maybe the front office, Kahn in particular, won’t go against their beliefs either. Like the players, Kahn, with his best interest at heart, wouldn’t speak negatively against Rambis either. I mean, that’s his guy! He was the guy who hired Rambis in the summer of 2008, hoping for a coach to absorb the blow of some rough seasons in hopes of turning this ship around. If Kahn decided to fire Rambis this summer, all it would show is Kahn admitting he was wrong, which is something no GM wants to swallow.

So what about the guy above the front office? He’s been awfully quiet…

“Owner Glen Taylor cannot be happy with how Rambis handled [the end of Kevin Love's double-double streak] or how he has coached, period,” he wrote. “In fact, I know he’s not remotely happy. I can assure you, the Timberwolves will be looking for a new head coach and a full bench of assistants as soon as the season is over.”

This quote comes from a journalist… from the New York Post. Remember towards the beginning of the season where another New York paper released rumors of Ricky Rubio’s desire to play for the Knicks? I’ll make it simple for you: New York has as many, if not more, bad reporters as good reporters. The last few reports regarding our Wolves coming out from the Big Apple have been malarky at best, so take this with a big grain of salt. Glen Taylor is a tough cookie to crack, some of Minny’s best reporters know that, but clearly the head honcho should be upset — we don’t need some New York article to tell us that. Kahn promised a turnaround in three years, and although we’re not there yet, the Wolves took maybe a half-step forward towards a brighter future, but that may be it. Compared to last year, this year could even be more disappointing because there were higher hopes, so that alone should be enough for Taylor to put his foot down. This ship is his after all, and he indeed has the final say, right? Let’s just hope he steps in, for once, and demands the change needed to take a step in the right direction.

Wolf Track: Rambis on hot seat?

Via ESPN Insider:

Ken Berger of writes: “Though management won’t make a final decision until the season is over, sources say there is significant push from within to make a coaching change. Atop the Timberwolves’ list of potential successors is Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson, one of the people with knowledge of the organization’s thinking said. … A coaching change is something Kevin Love would not oppose, sources say.”

Make of it what you wish, but I’m steering clear of this one…

Rambis has hit rock-bottom

After tonight’s putrid loss to the lowly Los Angeles Clippers, Kurt Rambis has tied Jimmy Rodgers for the lowest winning percentage in franchise history. Let it be known that Rodgers was fired after hitting the exact mark that Rambis is at right now.

In no way are Kahn and the Wolves going to fire Rambis now or any time soon, but let this be a wake up call. This team has two players averaging over 20+ points per game; one averaging nearly 16 rebounds per contest; two point guards who can hold their ground as a starter in the NBA; a stout rookie with a very bright future; a defensive mammoth who clogs the lane and has found a special touch around the backet on offense; a deep bench, headed by the veteran-savvy Martell Webster and defensive whiz Corey Brewer, with an assortment of different tools; the list goes on and on.

Go check out T-Wolves Blog for an excellent write up on this matter.

The talent level is there, and although the roster seems a bit redundant and maybe not ideal for Rambis’ system, this team should be winning more ball games. I don’t think it’s unfair to say that, despite this being yet another rebuilding season, Rambis may very well be on the hot-seat from here on out this season.