Oh, yeah. And Rambis may have just walked away from his shot at replacing
It would have been his dream job. A lot of people's dream, job, actually, but his in particular after 10 seasons as an assistant coach and seven as a player in L.A., as well as two roles in management, one as interim coach and a turn as TV commentator. The gritty power forward of the Showtime era remains hugely popular in Los Angeles, just as he was a favorite in other stops as the NBA's Clark Kent. Rambis is held in high regard by owner
It was within range, too, with Jackson year-to-year on his contract and openly admitting health is an issue. He had to take time before committing to return for the 2009-10 title defense, and someone questioning his stamina at age 63 will have the same inner debate at 64 and 65. There have been enough concerns -- two hip replacements, swelling in his leg that prompted Jackson to skip a one-game trip in April, an angioplasty -- that it couldn't be considered a surprise if he retires during the season.
That's how close Rambis could have been to getting the job he wanted with the franchise he wanted in the city he wanted. He had passed on the Kings' low-ball offer of two guaranteed years earlier in the summer to stay with the Lakers, obviously aware it would be foolish to leave for a losing team providing minimal security, even with the understanding that the L.A. bosses made no promises about a line of succession. If Rambis was definitely their guy, the Lakers would have looked after their interests and told him. He would have loved hearing it, probably would have gotten a pay bump for turning down the Timberwolves, and waited while knowing his future. But none of that happened.
The certainty is that anyone outside the front office who claims to know the next move is working with a blindfold and a dart board. The coaching hire will be a Buss call and there is no pattern to read. Rambis will always be a personal favorite, but good work with the Timberwolves keeps him in Minnesota for years, a bad outcome makes him a difficult sell and, besides, the decision may come before anyone has a chance to grade his work there.
Buss' coaching hires (excluding interim coaches) since
Shaw, former Laker
But he also gained the security of the top job in Minnesota as opposed to the guessing game in L.A., and there's a lot to be said for that. Plus, there's the real commitment of the reported four-year, $8 million deal, much better than the offer from Sacramento, even if it is about 125 miles from where Rambis grew up and an hour flight from Los Angeles if his family chose to stay there. Rambis knew he would some day be a possibility to succeed Jackson, refused to jump at a head-coaching job just to have a head-coaching job, and held firm until he heard the numbers that would get him to give up his place in line. Well played.
No one needs to tell Rambis about unpredictability. He was the Lakers' interim coach for 37 regular-season games and two rounds of the playoffs in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and he would have gotten the permanent job if not for the availability of one Phil Jackson. It was a setback, but everyone regarded Rambis as one of the bright coaching prospects, so his chance would obviously come somewhere. Except that it didn't. A few interviews and that's it, until he moved back to the forefront this summer with interest from the 76ers, Kings and Timberwolves.
If the Timberwolves are going to stand behind him with a long deal and the support of the new personnel boss who needs the hire to work out for both their sakes, there are a lot worse places to be. Last place in the Northwest Division appears inevitable and last in the Western Conference is a possibility, but they have promise with Jefferson -- depending on his recovery -- Flynn,