NBA: Rambis to be Timberwolves coach
MINNEAPOLIS ó Long considered the heir apparent to Phil Jackson in sunny Los Angeles, Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis is taking a much different, and colder, route to a head coaching job.
Rambis and the Minnesota Timberwolves have an oral agreement and are completing details of the contract, which is expected to be announced early this week, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Sunday because an announcement has not been made.
Timberwolves president David Kahn said in a text message he met with Rambis’ agent Sunday but has yet to conclude the deal.
The selection ends a seven-week search after Kahn decided in June not to keep Kevin McHale. Rambis was one of three finalists, with TV commentator and former NBA star Mark Jackson and Houston assistant Elston Turner.
The 51-year-old Rambis has the most head coaching experience of the group. He has been a Lakers assistant for 10 years, was their head coach in the lockout shortened 1998-99 season and has filled in on several occasions for his Hall of Fame coach.
Rambis won four titles with the Lakers as a player and three more as an assistant. He comes to a franchise that has seen many more losses than wins, especially of late.
The Wolves have not made the playoffs since Kevin Garnett led them to the Western Conference finals in 2004. They have won just 46 games in the last two seasons and have changed coaches four times in the last five years.
Minnesota won just 24 games last season and will have an even younger team next season, with star forward Al Jefferson coming back from a torn knee ligament.
In his first summer on the job, Kahn has made three trades already and expects to make more before the season. Right now, the player with the longest tenure is Corey Brewer, who was drafted in 2007.
Kahn was hired to run the basketball side of the Timberwolves franchise in May and spent the next three weeks or so meeting with McHale before announcing on June 17 he would hire someone else.
He interviewed more than a dozen candidates and cut the field to three two weeks ago. Rambis flew to the Twin Cities on Wednesday night to meet owner Glen Taylor.
Rambis, a Californian who spent most of his 14-year playing career with the Lakers, interviewed for jobs in Sacramento and Philadelphia this offseason. He couldn’t work out a deal with the Kings, and the 76ers went with Eddie Jordan.
Rambis should add some grit to the Wolves. That was his specialty as a player, when the bespectacled, wild-haired hustler would ignite fans at the old Forum by diving for loose balls, throwing an elbow or two to get position in the post and grabbing rebounds to start the famed Showtime fast break.
In a curious twist, Rambis feuded with McHale when the latter played for the Boston Celtics in the 1980s. McHale’s clothesline of Rambis in the 1984 NBA finals is an enduring image from one of basketball’s great rivalries.
Rambis’ standing was no doubt bolstered by his ties to Phil Jackson, who has won more NBA titles than any other coach. Rambis was the team’s top defensive strategist during last season’s run to the title and was able to watch how Jackson handled players and media.
Jackson turns 64 next month and has gotten a clean bill of health. Last season, he was troubled by pain and swelling in his lower legs. He has had two hip replacements since 2006 and uses a cane at times. He also had an angioplasty in 2003.