Kurt Rambis said he hasn’t spoken to Knicks president Phil Jackson about having the interim tag removed from his title. But Rambis left no doubt that he wants that to happen.
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Rambis has been Jackson’s top choice to be the full-time head coach when he picked him to replace Derek Fisher, who was fired Feb. 8. His close personal relationship with Jackson and their similar philosophies and views on basketball and players are working in Rambis’ favor. ESPN.com reported Jackson is “pushing” to give Rambis a multi-year deal.
“It would be fantastic,” Rambis said. “I want to be a head coach in this league. This is a great franchise. It’s a terrific city, fan base.
“It would be a thrill beyond thrills to take this situation from where it was when we all first came here and turn it into a situation where it’s extremely promising and we have a chance to get in the playoffs and do well in the playoffs. And get this city and this organization a potential championship. That’s a goal and that would be a tremendous thrill.”
Rambis had an air of confidence when he was speaking about his future before the Hornets dropped the Knicks, 111-97, Wednesday night in their next-to-last home game this season.
The Knicks, who were led by Derrick Williams’ 17 points, are a long way from being a championship contender. They’re 31-48 overall, 8-17 under Rambis, and will miss the playoffs for the third straight year.
This will be another offseason with plenty of changes. If Jackson truly is calling the shots, there may not be one on the bench. Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan has to sign off on any coaching decisions. But Rambis believes with a full training camp he can turn things around.
“Have they moved forward as much as I’d like them to? No,” Rambis said. “I have high expectations for myself. I have high expectations for the team. I think the future of this organization is bright, is promising. I would like to be a part of that process as it moves forward.”
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony said “I like Kurt,” and that he “would love to have some type of input” on coaching and personnel decisions. But Anthony said no one has talked to him.
Rambis is 64-162 as a head coach of the Lakers, T-Wolves and Knicks.
There are more qualified candidates including Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks. Knicks legend and Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing would “be happy” to get an interview, but it’s not likely he’s on Jackson’s radar.
Rambis was an assistant under Jackson with the Lakers and is pro-triangle. Jackson speaks to Rambis “on a daily basis.” Jackson didn’t have that kind of relationship with Fisher, his former player. Rambis said “it’s extremely important” for a coach and team president to have that rapport.
“We’re on the same page in terms of what’s needed, what’s missing, what we aren’t doing well,” Rambis said. “We have a clear understanding of that. Now it’s just a matter of being in a situation where we can correct that and get the guys playing the way we would like for them to play and the way we envision them playing.”
“It’s extremely important . . . to be on the same page, to have the same vision, to have an understanding about the type of players that you want.”
But Rambis said the Zen Master isn’t his Puppet Master.
“I grew up playing basketball a certain way and it’s very consistent with what Phil believes and thinks,” Rambis said. “So I don’t consider myself a puppet of his. It’s just a mindset of how we think the game should be played.
“The overall concepts of sacrifice and team play and ball movement, player movement, passing, those things are very consistent. So when we talk basketball that’s the sort of concepts that we understand and believe in and feel very strongly about that if we do the right things here we can put this organization in a situation where they can win and be formidable for a long period of time.”