Rambis says he’s no Jackson puppet, Knicks lose to Hornets

Kurt Rambis, the man with the interim tag Phil Jackson would love to rip away, reinforced his position as an extension of the Zen Master but declared he’s not attached to strings.

“I grew up playing basketball a certain way and it’s very consistent with what Phil believes and thinks,” Rambis said Wednesday on the heels of a Daily News report that he’s a frontrunner for the Knicks head coaching spot. “So I don’t consider myself a puppet of his. It’s just a mindset of how we think the game should be played.”

As unpopular as it would be to hire a coach with an 8-17 record – including the Knicks loss to Jeremy Lin and the Hornets on Wednesday night – as an interim coach and a worse winning percentage when he guided the Timberwolves for two seasons, Rambis’ strong connection with Jackson – one that extends to a bond between their significant others and a shared interest in the Grateful Dead – has provided the team president with enough comfort to increase his presence and input. It’s not something that worked with Derek Fisher, who was concerned both about the perception and the real potential of being undermined by an 11-time champion.

Rambis, on the other hand, has embraced Jackson’s involvement, and it could land him a new contract with the Knicks.

“It would be fantastic. I want to be a head coach in this league. This is a great franchise, it’s a terrific city, fanbase,” Rambis said. “It would be a thrill beyond thrills in order 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.”


Kurt Rambis is 8-16 as interim coach of the Knicks but his relationship with Phil Jackson could keep him here longer.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Kurt Rambis is 8-16 as interim coach of the Knicks but his relationship with Phil Jackson could keep him here longer.


Given the first two seasons under Jackson, picturing a championship contender in New York is like dumping out a 10,000-piece puzzle. The Knicks are 48-112 since the start of last season. The four seasons before Jackson ditched Mike Woodson, they were much better – a combined 217-143.

But Rambis is convinced they’re on the right path. He’s just not willing to put a timetable on achieving the goal.

“A lot of it will be determined with where we move with players, what happens with players. I’ve looked at last year as Year 0. This is kind of Year 1,” Rambis said. “We knew it was going to be a process in trying to get the pieces that we wanted in order to move forward. But more than that, it’s about getting guys to have an understanding of how to play together. And what’s very hopeful to me is that they can be and they have demonstrated that they can execute what we want them to do on both ends. They can do it fantastically, they just can’t sustain it.”


Either way, Rambis contends his harmony with Jackson is an integral part of any success. It just hasn’t manifested itself yet.

“It’s extremely important. It’s so important that that’s why you see some coaches that have clout in this league wanting to be able to be the administrator and the head coach and hopefully they have a good relationship with themselves. To be on the same page, to have the same vision, to have an understanding about the type of players that you want to make your whatever situation it is,” Rambis said. “Financially there’s always concerns and ownership being involved so that they’re receptive to everything that management and coach brings to the owner. The owners have to be driven too, we have that here. Mr. Dolan is driven to win a championship, so that’s never a concern. So having that relationship and understanding and being on the same page is critical to making everything work well. Because when it’s not you can see how it can break down and deteriorate rather quickly.”

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