As the Los Angeles Lakers look for a new head coach, their apparent desire to keep Kurt Rambis in a prominent role stands to put a handcuff on the search.
Leaving aside the hints of behind the scenes issues, Magic Johnson’s sudden resignation as team president gave the Los Angeles Lakers an opportunity to extend outside the familiar for prominent roles in the organization.
According to Bill Oram of The Athletic, a large Lakers’ contingent went to Philadelphia to interview 76ers’ assistant Monty Williams a second time for their head coaching job on Thursday. Jeanie Buss, Joey Buss, Jessie Buss and COO Tim Harris are easily worthy parts of that contingent, but senior basketball advisor Kurt Rambis and his wife Linda, the Lakers’ Executive Director for Special Projects, were also on the trip.
Rambis being involved in meeting and interviewing Williams makes some level of sense, since he’s in a basketball operations role. His wife is close to Jeanie Buss, in what seems to be a more business-side role, so the need for her presence on the trip to Philadelphia is harder to pin down.
According to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times, Kurt Rambis’ potential involvement in the future of the Lakers’ organization goes further.
The goal is seemingly to move Rambis to the bench as an associate head coach. But if that doesn’t work, he could become the assistant general manager.
The idea of Rambis being installed as associate head coach, or assistant general manager, creates another level to the lack of credibility regarding the Lakers’ decision making. Solid candidates like Williams could take themselves out of running to be head coach if Rambis is going to be forced on them from above.
After his long run as a Lakers’ assistant coach, mostly under Phil Jackson, Rambis was a colossal failure as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves (32-132 over two seasons). He reunited with Jackson in New York in 2014, mostly as an associate head coach under two head coaches (Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek) over five seasons, with a 28-game stint as interim head coach (9-19) at the end of the 2015-16 season.
After that stint as Knicks’ interim head coach, Jackson pushed for Rambis to be given the permanent post. Rambis was then retained as associate head coach, lingering over Hornacek’s shoulder as an on-court consigliere to push the outdated triangle offense.
Rambis at least has some history as an assistant coach and head coach, however bad it is in the latter role. He has no outward personnel credibility, so his presence as assistant general manager stands to be more of a nuisance than a benefit to general manager Rob Pelinka.
Rambis of course played for the Lakers during the 1980’s “Showtime” era. Since then he has consistently benefited from being part of the franchise’s “family”, and from being associated with another era of Lakers success when they had a Hall of Fame coach with two all-time great NBA players for a time. Remove that and you’ve got no credible resume. But the Lakers aren’t operating on the basis of someone’s actual qualifications for prominent roles in the organization right now.