Kurt Rambis wasn't treated with enough respect from David Kahn
Kurt Rambis' 32-132 record through two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves may have warranted his firing, which became official Tuesday, but not in the way that Minnesota General Manager David Kahn handled it.
Rambis may not have gotten the best out of a roster that averaged about four years' of NBA experience when he inherited the job, but Kahn didn't provide much in talent to make Rambis' coaching job any easier.
And Rambis may not have gotten his players to respect him enough to fully buy in to his concepts, but Kahn's lack of respect toward Rambis was worse because it reeks of unprofessionalism.
When Rambis took over the Lakers on an interim basis in place of the fired Del Harris in the 1998-99 season, Rambis endured similar struggles in getting young talent to buy in to his concepts and handling the Dennis Rodman's antics and the feud between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. Yet the Lakers still found him valuable enough to keep him on as an assistant upon hiring Phil Jackson the following season. He eventually became a key part in implementing Jackson's defensive scheme that limited the Orlando Magic to an average of 91.2 points a game in the 2009 NBA Finals.
When Rambis took over the Minnesota Timberwolves on a four-year deal, there was a tremendous learning curve in teaching the triangle offense to a team with lesser talent, reversing a losing culture and communicating with his players. The only success story pointed to Kevin Love's emergence, but even that came with some hand-wringing over Rambis' initial insistence in limiting his minutes. Yet Kahn did little beyond obsessing over Ricky Rubio and making trade leaks than acquiring actual talent.
"I remember the commercials during the game last year. Wasn't it about how to build a championship with the general manager and the whole bit?" Jackson said last season. "Then there's nothing spent. They still have a payroll that doesn't reflect the idea of going after a championship. It's hard to measure the words with the action. It doesn't look like they've really acted that way. They've acted toward accumulating raw, young talent, which is hard to coach."
As a result, we're left with a coach who understandably was let go but in the worst circumstances. Instead of firing Rambis as soon as the season ended, Kahn waited until mid-July to pull the trigger. Instead of talking face-to-face about the team's direction, Kahn had Rambis submit a written report on changes he would make with the team. And instead of telling Rambis his fate personally, Kahn revealed his intentions through leaked stories about his eventual firing and possibly being reassigned to a position in the front office.
Regardless of what kind of job Rambis did with Minnesota, that's not how he should have been treated. But as he's realized through his two seasons with Minnesota, that's how Kahn operates.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Head coach Phil Jackson, right, looks on as Kurt Rambis yells from the bench. Credit: Richard Hartog / LAT / Nov. 28, 2006