It’s been long known that Rambis wields more power in the Lakers’ front office than his “senior basketball advisor” title would suggest, but I will admit that even I had no idea he was this prominent of a voice until today.
First, Bill Oram and Sam Amick of The Athletic reported that Rambis had basically threatened the jobs of everyone on the coaching staff if things didn’t get better for the team (emphasis mine):
The coaching staff has been well aware that it faced significant pressure for months. Sources say that was made clear to the staff early on this season by Kurt Rambis, the former Laker and current director of basketball affairs who has become one of the most influential members of the organization since returning to the franchise in 2017.
Yet not long after Rambis relayed the word that they were all at risk of being replaced if things did not improve, COVID complications made it nearly impossible for the Lakers to continue evaluating Vogel because, among other reasons, he wasn’t there. He entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Dec. 19 and didn’t return until Dec. 31.
That, in and of itself, didn’t raise that many eyebrows. Again, it was well known that Rambis was involved, even if it was a little surprising that he was feeling powerful enough to threaten the jobs of the entire coaching staff.
But then, a few hours later, Dan Woike and Brad Turner of The Los Angeles Times reported that not only is Rambis powerful enough to browbeat the coaching staff, but he’s also been empowered to sit in on their meetings and make suggestions when he doesn’t like how things are going.
And last week, he had an idea that I’m sure Lakers fans are just going to love (again, emphasis mine):
According to people with knowledge of the situation, Pelinka, the Lakers’ vice president of basketball operations and general manager, and Kurt Rambis, the team’s senior basketball advisor, met with Vogel and assistant coach David Fizdale after last week’s loss to the Sacramento Kings to discuss ways to turn things around. It was the third time the group had met in recent days.
The Lakers then lost on Saturday to the Denver Nuggets by 37 points, their worst defeat of the season, putting more heat on Vogel.
Rambis then attended the Lakers’ pregame coaches meeting Monday at Crypto.com Arena for the first time this season, after previously only attending meetings virtually. Rambis advocated for the Lakers to use larger lineups with Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
(Update: After we published this, The L.A. Times later quietly updated their story with no correction, taking out Jordan and Howard’s names, and only saying Rambis attended the meeting and “advocated for the Lakers to use traditional strategies,” for whatever that’s worth. Original story follows)
As an aside, whoever on the coaching staff is leaking this stuff is honestly hilarious, and absolutely knows what they are doing, so that’s worth taking into account here.
Still, it’s worth asking: What has Rambis — who is married to team governor Jeanie Buss’ biggest confidante, Linda Rambis —done to warrant becoming the Lakers’ own personal Rasputin? Well, it’s not really clear, and hard to say, honestly.
But since he’s apparently basically in charge of one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet now, let’s take a look at his basketball resume with a bit more scrutiny than his advisor title required us to previously.
- Rambis was an integral role player on the Showtime Lakers, and he played 569 games with the franchise over parts of nine seasons (and two separate stints), winning four NBA championships.
- After retiring from playing, Rambis served as an assistant coach, most notably for the Lakers under Phil Jackson, helping the team to the 2002 and 2009 NBA titles.
- Rambis was then head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves for two seasons, where he went 32-132 before being fired with the second-worst winning percentage (.195) in the history of maybe the least successful NBA franchise ever.
- Eventually, Rambis followed Jackson to New York, where he served as interim coach in 2016, going 9-19, and perhaps more notably, required the Knicks to issue a statement claiming that the porn tweets he liked from his verified account were the result of being hacked, leading to what I’m comfortable saying are the funniest two paragraphs in the history of the Sporting News:
“Kurt did not like those items on his Twitter page and we worked with Twitter to make sure the situation did not happen again,” (Knicks spokesman Jonathan) Supranowitz said.
The likes are no longer there, but the coach does still follow @GreatAssDaily on the social media outlet. Perhaps before using the classic “I was hacked” defense, he should have gone ahead and made sure he unfollowed that account.
- In all of his time as a coach, Rambis accumulated a career record of 65-164 — good for a .375 winning percentage, the 66th-worst of any coach in NBA history, per Basketball-Reference.
So, all in all, he is perhaps not who I personally would be taking advice on starting lineups from if I were Frank Vogel or the rest of the coaching staff, but I digress. And the Lakers are letting him be one of the most powerful people in the organization, for some reason. Maybe he really was the semi-mythical “shadow executive” from the summer of 2019, after all.