Following a series of unsuccessful coaches commissioned to fill Phil Jackson’s titanic shoes, the Los Angeles Lakers desperately want—nay, need—to hit their next hire out of the park.
So naturally they bring in a guy who lost twice as many games as he won at his most recent stop and whose biggest claim to Lakers fame may have been decapitating Kevin McHale in the 1984 NBA Finals:
All friendly barbs aside, Kurt Rambis is just one of many candidates the Lakers are expected to interview as they seek to find a replacement for Mike D’Antoni, who resigned back on May 1.
Few remember that Rambis did have a somewhat successful stint as the Lakers’ skipper back in 1998-99, when he compiled a 24-13 record over 37 games before staying on as Jackson’s assistant when the Zen Master first arrived in L.A. the following season.
It wasn’t until a full 10 years later that Rambis got a second shot, this time as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-2011—Kevin Love’s first two seasons in the NBA.
After two years of rancorous relationships and incessant losing (32-132), Rambis—a noted triangle disciple—was let go, before being brought back as a Lakers assistant during the 2013-14 season.
More grizzled fans might remember him as L.A.’s bespectacled, mustachioed enforcer during the Showtime era of the 1980s—a horn-rimmed glasses-wearing, elbow dropping, garbage bucket-getting forward whose goofy appearance belied his hard-nosed presence.
It seems likely the Lakers are interviewing Rambis more out of common courtesy than any genuine belief that he can be L.A.’s leader of the future. Particularly with such names as Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry and Mark Jackson—just to name a few—still floating around.
But does he deserve such a rancid rap?
Shortly after Rambis’ ouster in 2011, Zach Harper—then with ESPN—suggested his poor record may have been more about circumstances than coaching talent:
Rambis was not a very good coach over the past two years. His teams were inefficient offensively and abhorrent defensively. Last season, it seemed that he was one of the worst fourth-quarter coaches in the entire league because of how the Wolves seemed to kick away leads. (Yes, they actually had fourth-quarter leads.) But I’m not so sure he was as bad as his 32-132 record would suggest.
Rambis is not a good coach when he’s given a bad team. That’s been proved. However, the way he’s been treated by Kahn and the Wolves organization in the past two months might be the most embarrassing part of this entire era.
Rambis will likely remain a dark horse candidate as the days and weeks wear on.
Judging by his stint in Minnesota, Rambis probably isn’t the guy you want coaching another youth-laden lottery team (and Kobe Bryant), should that be the direction the Lakers end up going for the 2014-15 campaign.
Then again, we’ve certainly seen stranger.
Rambis is something of a weird institution in L.A., giving him a kind of cultish clout that, under the right circumstances, could conceivably be unleashed to promising ends.
Now if we could just get him to bring back the industrial-strength goggles and magnificent mullet-lipbush combo. Gold, Jerry.