When Minnesota Timberwolves’ General Manager David Kahn announced the hiring of head coach Kurt Rambis on August 8, 2009 it was generally well received by fans of the Timberwolves.
As a player Rambis won four championships while playing with the Lakers (1982, 85, 87, and 88), and another two championships while he was an assistant coach with the team (2002 and 2009).
His credentials were there. But the problem was that Rambis had essentially never dealt with losing, and this team was far from being a playoff contender at the time of his hiring.
During his tenure as Wolves coach, the team has seen Michael Beasley and Kevin Love grow into star players in the NBA. But the losses continue to pile up. Making many Timberwolves faithful question weather Rambis is the answer as coach of this up-and-coming team.
After Tuesday night’s 107-96 home loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, the Wolves record dropped to 9-30 through 39 games. After 39 games last season the team was 8-31, and that came after a horrendous 1-15 start.
Just by looking at record it would appear that the Wolves aren’t getting any better even though the talent continues to grow. Which oftentimes is deemed a fault of the coach.
By looking at wins and losses alone, many fans have started calling for the termination of Rambis’ contract.
Kahn feels differently.
During the Wolves January 3rd loss at Boston, Kahn told the Timberwolves FSNorth broadcasters that, “He [Rambis] was the right coach for us then, and he’s the right coach for us for many years to come.”
Squashing any rumors that Rambis may be on his way out.
He’s here to stay, and I personally am in support of such a decision. Although the win totals don’t show it, the Wolves are drastically improved from last season’s team. A point that Kahn himself has driven home.
He told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in a January 10th article that, “We need to win more, but we’re getting close. We are light years ahead of where we were at this stage a year ago. I feel we will turn the corner.”
It’s become a joke within the Minneapolis media circle that the Wolves continue to find ways to lose. If you’ve followed this team you would see the same thing.
With that being said they have been in far more games then many could’ve imagined. And although it has been frustrating to watch them come so close to pulling out big wins, they continue to fall just a few points short. Which was rarely the case a season ago.
But the silver lining is that they are so close in so many of these games that it is only a matter of time before these three and four point losses become two and three point wins.
3-time NBA championship winning coach Greg Popovich believes this Timberwolves are close as well.
In a January 11th article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Popovich is quoted as saying, “They’re [Timberwolves] a very difficult team to understand. You look at that record and their record looks like it’s a losing team. But they play like winners every night.”
Last season the Wolves rarely, if ever, played like winners as many eight to twelve point deficits turned into twenty point blowouts. This year those same eight to twelve point deficits are becoming two or three point losses.
Much of Rambis’ success has been seen by the tutelage of young post players Love and Darko Milic. Each of them are having career years. Milicic (8.9 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game, and 2.3 blocks per game) is making his 4 year 20 million dollar contract look like a bargain.
While Love collected his 25th straight double-double on Tuesday night, and is averaging over 21 points per game and rapidly approaching an average of 16 rebounds per night.
Rambis should be getting much more praise for the growth of these young inside players.
In seeing the growth of his players, along with the team’s continued ability to battle night-in-and-night-out, it becomes evident that Rambis is the right man for this organization. And he’s showing patience that many feared he wouldn’t have.
At this point next year these close losses will become close wins. In January of 2012 fans may not be asking for Rambis to be fired, but instead they will potentially be campaigning him for NBA coach of the year.
Although that day seems miles and miles away, I view the turning point for this Wolves team to be like a side-view mirror; objects in mirror are closer than they appear.
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