No playoffs for Rambis this year
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As a player and a coach, Kurt Rambis has grown accustomed to winning over a long and successful career.
There were the four titles he won as a member of the "Showtime" Lakers as a player in the 1980s. Then came four more NBA finals appearances and two more titles with the Lakers as an assistant coach under Phil Jackson earlier this decade.
All that winning came to an abrupt halt in his first season as head coach of the Timberwolves, and the long and difficult winter in Minnesota ensured a much longer offseason than Rambis is used to. The Timberwolves went 15-67, tying a franchise record for futility. It was almost a complete 180 for Rambis, whose Lakers went 65-17 a year ago to win the NBA title.
"I knew we were going to take a lot of lumps this year," Rambis told The Associated Press. "Even though you know it, you're going through it and it's just difficult. You're used to winning and you expect that of yourself and you want to win for the players, the fans, the organization. When you don't win, it stings, it hurts, it's embarrassing, it's frustrating."
Now, after having one of the best seats in the house for the NBA playoffs -- the chair right next to Jackson for the previous eight seasons -- Rambis will be watching the playoffs from his couch this time around.
One of the first pieces of advice he got from veteran coaches was to not take the losing home with him every night. That proved easier said than done.
"I got pretty obsessed with the season, always trying to find ways to make things better," he said. "Watch a lot of tape of our opponents, figure out how to best give our team a chance to win. Trying to get them better. It's just hard to turn your mind off and not just focus on it all the time. It was very difficult."
Making matters worse for Rambis, he spent the entire season away from his family. His wife Linda stayed back in Los Angeles so their youngest child -- daughter Ali -- could finish her senior year of high school.
"In some respects, for me so much of it felt like I was on the road for a lot of long road trips, just being away from home," Rambis said. "It's definitely tough. You miss your home environment where you're comfortable and everything."
The Rambis women definitely saw more success in 2009-10 than Kurt did. Ali is a standout volleyball player and will follow in her father's footsteps to Santa Clara University in the fall. Linda attended most Lakers home games, sitting with friend Jeanie Buss, daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss and the team's executive vice president.
While they enjoyed the fun in the sun, Rambis spent the year in icy Minnesota trying to reshape a young and rebuilding team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2004.
"He wanted max effort out of us, to leave it out on the floor every night," Al Jefferson said. "He would get really disgusted when we were out there and not playing hard. He wasn't concerned with the wins and losses, he was more concerned with how we played."
Most of the roster moves in the offseason were geared toward making the Wolves competitive on the free agent market this summer, so Rambis went to work with a roster that was overmatched nearly every time it took the floor.
"A lot of people when I hired Kurt last summer, speculated that the transition for him, coming from the Lakers organization that is used to winning 60-some games a year and going all the way to the finals, if not winning it, to this type of situation would be very difficult," Timberwolves president David Kahn said. "He handled it beautifully; he couldn't have handled it better."
Despite all the losses, which included two losing streaks of at least 15 games and 29 defeats in their final 31 games, the Timberwolves were not plagued with the infighting or bickering that often accompany such adversity.
"We knew it was going to be very difficult and it had the potential to be an extremely volatile situation and an ugly situation," Rambis said. "But it wasn't. It made the season, considering all the losing, tolerable because everybody handled it so well."