The new head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves says he's ready to build a winning team, but he also wants to win fans back. Kurt Rambis came to Minnesota today to lay out his vision for the T-wolves.
Rambis inherits a team that hasn't had a winning season in years. It's also a team that lost a lot of fans when star player Kevin Garnett left back in 2007.
Rambis, 51, comes to Minnesota by way of Los Angeles where he's been assistant coach of the LA Lakers for 10 years. He also spent nine seasons with the Lakers as a player.
Rambis succeeds Kevin McHale, who was dismissed by the Timberwolves less than two months ago.
But this is not the first time the two have crossed paths. Back in 1984, McHale's Boston Celtics and Rambis' LA Lakers met in the NBA Finals.
During game four of the championship, Rambis -- wearing his trademark thick black sports glasses -- caught a pass, went for a layup and was laid out flat by McHale, who straight-armed him across the chest.
That famous play from 25 years ago wasn't mentioned as Rambis officially took the reins as coach of the Timberwolves.
Team president David Kahn says he would have hired Rambis based on his resume as a player and coach alone. But it's obvious Kahn wants Rambis to use all of his skills to rebuild the T-wolves from the ground up.
"Kurt Rambis is renowned around the league as being committed to player development, as a hands-on teacher, a guy who will go out on the court and work with them," said Kahn. "He is passionate and believing of a running style of play, which as you heard me say is something I think we have to do here with the Timberwolves."
Exciting play is something Rambis is promising, not only to his new team, but to fans as well. He knows winning fans back after years of losing seasons is key to the Timberwolves' overall success.
"It's a brand of ball that's going to bring the fans back into this arena. And as we add the pieces to this team, we're going to build a championship team here in the future," Rambis said.
A championship team is what Rambis will need to produce to interest fans like Jason Aulizia. Standing outside the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis, Aulizia says he hasn't paid attention to the Timberwolves since Kevin Garnett left.
"Once they establish a team, start getting a winning record, I think the fans will come back and I'll come back," said Aulizia. "But at this point there's plenty of other things to distract you in the Twin Cities, like the Vikings, the Twins and the Wild."
Aulizia says one thing -- make that one player -- that would bring him to the Target Center right away would be Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves' first-round draft pick. Rubio, 18, is a superstar in Spain, but Minnesoa doesn't appear close to signing him. Rambis says he'll do whatever he can to get Rubio to Minnesota.
Anthony Hayes of Minneapolis says he thinks Rambis will make a good coach for the Wolves, and hopes he makes a few changes to the team.
"I think it was a good move for them. It'll definitely bring some toughness to the organization that I don't believe they've had since KG left," said Hayes.
Even new coaching isn't going to get Hayes, who's an LA native and diehard Lakers fan, into the Target Center.
"Absolutely not," he said with a laugh. "I'm happy for Kurt, I wish him a lot of success, unless he's playing the Lakers. ... I come to the Timberwolves game when the Lakers are here, other than that, no more interest."
Kurt Rambis says he'll spend a few days in Minnesota watching his new team practice, but he won't offer much yet in the way of guidance.
The Timberwolves start their season against the New Jersey Nets Oct. 28 at the Target Center.