The more I read and learn about Kurt Rambis, the more I am convinced that the best comp coaching-wise is Phil Jackson, and not so much because of X's and O's (although with the triangle it's an easy parallel to draw), but rather because it seems like these two coaches share similar philosophies and attitudes towards players and ego management. An argument could be made that today's NBA head coach must be highly skilled in ego management and motivation techniques, perhaps even more skilled in 'soft skills' than in X's and O's, because of the power players hold over teams with their contracts, FA, and star appeal.
Randy Wittman may have great basketball knowledge about plays, strategies, and techniques, but because he couldn't relate to players and earn their respect while maintaining his leadership and authority Wittman failed miserably with both the Cavaliers and the Wolves. For all the losing the Wolves have endured this year, perhaps the most remarkable difference between Wittman and Rambis is that he hasn't lost any of the players yet. In fact, many of the players regularly call themselves out for their failings or mistakes and preach what Rambis is coaching as the cure. I know guys liked McHale last year too, and that paid dividends to certain extent as well. All of those guys were McHale's guys, though, and Rambis arguably has none of 'his' guys on this roster, as he wasn't around for most of the purging or the draft.
What motivated this post was this excerpt from a piece on Phil Jackson. You can read it and decide for yourself if there are any parallels or insights as to why Rambis may have been so motivated to take the Timberwolves' job. For my two cents I think we have a keeper in Rambis, not because he's trying to be Phil Jackson but because he's learned and incorporated what it is that has enabled Jackson to be so successful. The proof will be in the pudding 2-3 years from now. Here's the excerpt:
On why he came back. As Bryant's partnership with Shaq was breaking up, Jackson stepped away from the Lakers for a season and watched them miss the 2004-05 playoffs under coaches Rudy Tomjanovich (who went 24-19) and his interim replacement, Frank Hamblen (10-29). Jackson returned the following season to take on the entirely new challenge of rebuilding with a young team. One reason he accepted the job -- apart from his $10 million salary -- was to claim a larger role over personnel.
"When I came back they said, 'You can help make all of those decisions,' " Jackson said. "Given that accord, I said fine, I can do this. The biggest thing was signing off on [the decision to spend a No. 10 pick for center] Andrew Bynum, a 17-year-old kid with very little experience as a player coming out of high school, when you're looking at the future of four years of coaching him or whatever.
"But all of these opportunities we talked about -- [acquiring] Pau Gasol the first year, we talked about Ron Artest the first year I came back, and all of these players that we have now. We talked about getting Derek Fisher back on our roster, because we knew that there were opportunities that might happen. And all of these opportunities have come to fruition, which is amazing when you think about it, that if you scheme or you dream, they come to reality."