BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Kurt Rambis is not lobbying to keep the Knicks’ coaching job beyond this season, and he doesn’t necessarily have to, given that he has a very supportive voice calling the shots.
Team president Phil Jackson described his relationship with Rambis as “tight” during a 30-minute interview Friday and publicly endorsed the interim coach. Jackson essentially let the players know he doesn’t want to make another coaching change and would like some continuity going into next season.
“That’s nice to hear, but I’m just going to do the job that I’m doing,” Rambis said before practice Saturday. “I’m trusting my instincts and what I feel is right for this team. I’m trying to do what’s right for the team and for the players in their development and their understanding of the game and team concepts.
“That’s kind of where I’m driving this. It’s about respecting the organization, respecting the fans, respecting the players so that they’re doing things the right way from a basketball perspective. I’m going to do the best job I can, and what I know how, and let the chips fall where they may.”
The Knicks, who will face the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant for the last time on Sunday night, are 4-9 since Rambis replaced Derek Fisher on Feb. 8.
Although the record would seem to be the determining factor, without being asked, Jackson brought up Rambis’ record with Minnesota (32-132) and said it doesn’t fully tell the story of his coaching acumen and ability.
“We’ve talked many times over the past four, five years about the obvious record that is created behind his coaching in Minnesota, and that puts a black mark on his coaching ability at first sight,” Jackson said. “He’s got a way of handling players. He’s relaxed but yet he has the ability to keep them focused on the important parts of it. He’s a defensive-oriented guy. I think he’s got a real good handle on that part. We’ll see how they go this year.”
The two worked together in Los Angeles and have been friends for 15 years. Jackson hired Rambis to be associate head coach of the Knicks because they share a similar vision. They speak more regularly than Jackson did with Fisher when he was the coach.
Jackson is going to give Rambis every opportunity to be the Knicks’ coach, but he wants to see him move them forward. Rambis said that — not trying to save his job — is his only objective.
“If I’m doing the right things, what else can I do?” he said. “If I feel like I’m doing right by the players and right by the team and I feel like we’re getting them to move in the right direction so that they’re playing basketball the right way, then I feel like I’ve done my job. Record-wise, it’s going to be whatever it turns out to be. I’m not going to put that pressure on myself. I’m not going to worry about the what-ifs and what could be in the future. I’m just going to do the best I can each day.”
Rambis said he’s tweaked the defense in an attempt to make the Knicks stop dribble penetration and protect the paint more. But he said the Knicks revert to their old ways because they were taught differently under Fisher.
Rambis said he’s going to continue to push them for the remaining 15 games, and not because he wants another chance to show he’s a better coach than he was with Minnesota. “It’s not about proving Minnesota wrong,” Rambis said. “That’s in the past to me. I don’t think about that. I like coaching. I enjoy the thrill of being out there on the court. I like working with the players. I like skill development. It’s just fun to coach.
“If you’re in a historic franchise like the Knicks are and we feel like we’re moving in the right direction, we give ourselves an opportunity to add some players in the next year or two and this whole thing can turn around real quick. That was the goal from the very beginning coming here, was to put this franchise on the right footing and help it move forward for the long term.”