The Lakers officially announced the hiring of Kurt Rambis to join Mike D’Antoni’s coaching staff on Monday. The hiring is shocking considering Rambis was one of the loudest critics when the Lakers decided to hire Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown as coach last season; in hiring D’Antoni the Lakers passed on Rambis’ former coaching mentor Phil Jackson.
“If you’re talking about having success and having this team and someone who knows how to guide a team to an NBA title, Phil is that guy…There’s no second, third, fourth or fifth choice at this point in time. He’s that guy” Rambis said in an interview with Time Warner Cable after the D’Antoni hire was announced last season.
Apparently, being called the no better than the 6th best coaching option for the Lakers didn’t dissuade D’Antoni from adding Rambis to his staff.
Rambis delivered more verbal daggers at D’Antoni later in the year on ESPN’s First Take when the Lakers continued to struggle.
“Well, Mike D’Antoni has to be able to be ready to make adjustments. Im not buying the argument that Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard cant play together. If Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan can play together, if Zack Randolph and Marc Gasol can play together and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum can play together, they can certainly find a way to play together. So they have to be put in the right system” Rambis stated when asked about D’Antoni preferring not playing Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol together.
It is has been reported that Rambis will have a role similar to the one he had during his stint as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson where he was in charge of the defense. D’Antoni must have heard what Rambis had to say about the poor job he did last season with the defense and figured, who better to lead the defense this coming season then the guy that had all the answers.
“At the defensive end, Metta World Peace great defender. Dwight Howard good shot blocker protecting the basket, Pau Gasol good team defender. Kobe Bryant a great sometimes defender. All the components are there they just have to be put in the right system so they can flourish” Rambis added. “They should be a really good defensive team and they stink on that end of the floor”
Rambis won’t have an opportunity to have Dwight Howard protecting the rim this season, which by the way Rambis eerily forewarned could be a result of choosing D’Antoni over Phil Jackson.
“The other thing that this organization has to keep in mind, is that if things don’t work out really well here, and Dwight Howard’s not happy, he’s a free agent,” Rambis said. “He could leave, and that would be disastrous for the imminent future of this team. I think you can see that there’s a lot of pressure on this organization to win, and ultimately that’s what you have to do. And Phil has been the coach in recent history who’s had the most success here.”
Making this hiring even more stunning was that Rambis didn’t just have disparaging words for D’Antoni, but also for the man that took part in the decision to hire him, owner and Vice President of Player Personal, Jim Buss.
“I don’t know if Jim Buss knows one system from another in terms of how it fits with players, or what works best for players, or what’s the difference between them.” Rambis said. “I don’t know if he really understands that, so a lot of times decisions are made on gut feelings and with outside sources that have an influence on it.”
Questioning the basketball acumen of the person partly responsible for hiring the coaching staff usually isn’t an effective tactic for getting the job, but it worked wonderfully for Rambis in this case.
The hiring raises the question, why would D’Antoni bring aboard a coach that not only was highly critical of his work with the Lakers last season, but also a link to the legendary Lakers coach Phil Jackson who the Lakers fan have been clamoring to return? Kind of hard to turn the page and enter the new D’Antoni coaching era when one of Jackson’s disciples is parked in a seat right next to you on the Lakers bench.
Is hiring Rambis as an assistant part of D’Antoni diabolical plan to divert the heat that he will undoubtedly be under this coming season? D’Antoni putting Rambis in the line of fire can now serve as a scapegoat if things go wrong. If history serves as any indicator for the future of a D’Antoni led team, the defense will be what goes wrong. Who is leading the defense this coming season, that’s right, Rambis.
Maybe the hiring of Rambis was D’Antoni throwing the rabid Lakers fan base a bone. In silencing the fan base cries for Phil to return, at least for the moment, it might buy him enough time to build equity by winning and in turn, gaining that same fan base’s support.
With Rambis spouting off incessantly last season about what D’Antoni was doing wrong and what he should be doing, bringing him aboard might be D’Antoni’s way of putting a sock in Rambis’ mouth.
A simple and more conservative theory would be that D’Antoni hired Rambis because he is really good at what he does and can help this Lakers team this coming season.
Okay, some of these theories I’m throwing out there resemble a contentious filled storyline out of an Aaron Sorkin drama more so than what is probably reality, but something is afoot in Lakers Land and the mischievous details will most certainly start to be revealed as this season progresses.
What we did learn from with complete certainty is that it takes more than hammering the head coach’s ability and questioning the team owner’s intelligence publicly to burn bridges in the Lakers organization. It didn’t work for Charlie Sheen on Two and Half Men, but it worked for Kurt Rambis. Good for him.
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