I don’t particularly buy into the Phil Jackson-as-Coaching-God theory — when you’re blessed with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and a young Shaquille O’Neal, probably the top three players of this generation, you had better win 10 NBA titles. So whether or not he stays with the Lakers holds no special interest for me. Others, as I understand it, care a whole lot.
That would include Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss, who happens to be Jackson’s longtime girlfriend. With former Lakers assistant and Jackson protege Kurt Rambis headed to the Timberwolves, Buss made a somewhat surprising observation recently on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles: Rambis’ departure could mean that Jackson could stick around in LA longer than anticipated.
Jackson has never struck me as the kind of a guy who would be grooming a protege to step in for him when he retires; I always thought that the next Lakers head coach would have to pull a sword from a stone, or beat Kobe in the feats of strength during Festivus. But indeed, Jackson seemed intent on handing the keys to the bespectacled one when he stepped down — which we always thought would be after next season, and due to health issues.
“Phil has been feeling better. As a matter of fact something that I thought I’d never see in Phil again, he’s riding a motorcycle again. Phil is feeling healthy and maybe this is an opportunity for Phil to continue to stay with the Lakers … as he’s only under contract for next season, but given the success the team has had I’m hoping maybe now that Kurt has moved on Phil doesn’t feel the need to step down so that his protege has a chance. So maybe this all worked out for the best for everybody.”
Rambis accepted a deal with the TWolves last week said to be in excess of $8 million.
“It was really with mixed emotions and it’s the same with Phil because he depends on Kurt so much. I was worried if Kurt left that it would be difficult for Phil to carry on. A lot of people are aware that when Phil had health problems he turned the team over to Kurt, he had 100% confidence in Kurt, and he had Kurt for the last two seasons be responsible for the defense.”
“Phil is so proud of Kurt and he knows that Kurt has the itch and it’s time for Kurt to be in charge and Phil knew he was ready for that and he wishes him well.”
Rambis may have been on the same page with Jeanie Buss, but not so much so with her dad and brother, Jerry and Jim. His relationship with the men of the Buss family has always been awkward at best, so it doesn’t take a great leap to figure that Rambis was never going to be head coach of the Lakers anyway.
Rambis didn’t address any of that this morning when he talked to KFAN Radio in Minneapolis (and why would he?). Instead, he found some positive things to say about his new team.
“I see the potential in this team, I see the opportunity here to work with a solid group of young, talented ball players; their draft picks in Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn are very exciting point guards. So, the potential’s here, albeit there are some still pieces missing. The inside presence of Jefferson, his rebounding capabilities along with Kevin Love, the point guards; this team is an up and coming team, the cap space that David Kahn has cleared to add in free agency, the draft picks that we have… This team, we believe, can quickly be built in to a high caliber team that can win ball games.”
Meanwhile, Love apologizes to his Twitter followers concerning the Rambis hire:
Sorry I didn’t break the news on this one people, Kahn would not let it happen…5:44 AM Aug 10th from Tweetie