While many New York Knicks fans thought having Kurt Rambis for about half a season is bad enough, it seems Phil Jackson has very different plans regarding the future, and that is to keep his former assistant on full-time on the sidelines.
Rambis took over the head coach job after Derek Fisher was fired. Rambis has had short stints as head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves in the past. He’s only 8-16 since taking over for Fisher in New York, and overall is 64-161 in his career, with one playoff appearance back in 1999 with the Lakers during the shortened season. He’s made a number of decisions (which simply might be filling out Phil Jackson’s instructions) that have made the media, especially in New York, credit his ability to coach this team full time.
But Jackson likes people he’s worked with before, and Rambis was his assistant on four of the Lakers championships before taking on the Timberwolves head coaching job in 2009 and failing miserably, going 32-132 in two seasons before getting axed. Carmelo Anthony mentioned he was hoping Jackson would consider candidates such as Tom Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, all available, although it’s hard to say if Van Gundy is looking to get back into coaching, refusing another of offers in recent years.
And if Jackson really wants Rambis to keep on coaching, it could mean a number of things. Personally I think he did a reasonable job of improving the Knicks this season in terms of a better playing roster, but there’s more than just good players to making a team good or great, which is the ultimate goal, at least Anthony is being led to believe. But his selection of coaches has more to do with his ability to work with them (turned out to be the wrong choice with Fisher) than their qualifications.
Don’t get me wrong – a functioning, productive relationship between GM and head coach is definitely important, maybe sometimes a bit more than X’s and O’s. But Jackson, not the most humble of NBA personalities, might have another matter on his agenda: Not have strong, popular personalities working near the bench. The problems with Fisher had more to do with his off the court activities, but like Rambis, it’s hard to see what he brings to the team in terms of coaching abilities.
The Knicks missing the playoffs this season isn’t a disaster, and there’s room for improvement which Jackson has shown he can do, at least in the one offseason he’s had to really work in. However, at the oh so important coaching position, he has a soft spot for former assistants and players, which seems to be blinding his better judgement, which should be guiding him towards other names, not another dose of Rambis.