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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Seven weeks after the Minnesota Timberwolves season ended, Kurt Rambis has not been told whether he will be back for a third year as head coach.
So he finally decided to say something about it.
Rambis said Friday that he still sees himself as the coach of the Timberwolves until he is told otherwise, but admitted to being irked by the lack of communication with team President David Kahn.
“I think everybody has reasons for why they conduct the business in the way they want to conduct their business,” Rambis said in his first public remarks about the situation since the season ended April 13. “If you’re asking me if that’s what I would do, no, that’s not how I would handle things. But everybody’s different.”
Kahn was traveling and not immediately available for comment. Assistant GM Tony Ronzone said he could not comment.
Rambis has two years left on the contract he signed in 2009. He has won just 32 games in his first two seasons as coach in Minnesota, a period of upheaval in the roster that left him with the youngest team in the league this season.
Rambis was in town watching a group of veteran free agents work out in front of Ronzone and a few assistant coaches. The coach’s decision to address the media came as a surprise, and Rambis said he has had only “minor conversations” with Kahn in the weeks that have passed since Kahn refused to give him a vote of confidence in the season-ending meeting with the media.
Rambis has shown up in the Twin Cities twice in the last month now, once to watch a workout of draft prospects and then this week to look at several fringe free agents and Brazilian big man Paulao Prestes, whom the Wolves drafted in the second round last year. The appearances have been a bit awkward, with the coach-in-limbo going about his business despite the very real possibility that he will not be back next season.
“The way I see it, I’m doing my job,” Rambis said. “I’m still the coach of this team until something happens otherwise. So I’ve got to be watching for talent and doing whatever I can to help this team get better.”
Kahn spent the first two seasons wheeling and dealing to remake the roster, turning the Wolves into a young, athletic and inexperienced team. The talent was significantly upgraded from the first year Kahn and Rambis were on the job, with the additions of Michael Beasley, Anthony Tolliver, Luke Ridnour and others giving them a better shooting, deeper team in 2010-11.
But the lack of veteran leadership, and some players’ struggles with getting comfortable with the offensive and defensive systems Rambis employs, led to just two more victories than the previous season, a 17-65 mark that was the worst in the league.
When he left his job as Phil Jackson’s top assistant with the Lakers to take over the Timberwolves as Kahn’s first coaching hire, Rambis requested a four-year contract to ensure that he would have the job security to see through the massive rebuilding project that the two planned to implement.
But the Wolves lost 15 straight games to end his second season, a miserable finish that put the coach’s job in jeopardy.
“It’s out of my control,” Rambis said on Friday. “It’s what I said at the end of the season. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to proceed like I am (the coach) and do my job.”
When the season ended, Kahn said he would take his time to make a decision. He said he was disappointed in the lack of progress shown in the record, but didn’t want to make an emotional decision at the end of a trying year.
The Wolves have the No. 2 overall pick in the June 23 draft, but Rambis said he still doesn’t know if he’ll be involved in the decision-making process.
The Wolves also were notified this week that 2009 top draft choice Ricky Rubio plans to come over from Spain and join the team next season. The Wolves have not announced Rubio’s signing officially yet while they wait for the 20-year-old point guard to finish playing for Regal Barcelona in the Spanish league playoffs.
While waiting to hear from Kahn, Rambis did some television work for ESPN and a local station in Los Angeles during the NBA playoffs and has been spending a lot of time with his family at home in California.
He said he didn’t have any talks scheduled with Kahn and had no idea when he’d get an answer on his future with the team.
When asked if that angered him, the always composed Rambis shrugged and said, “I don’t know what to say other than I have to conduct my life in the way that I conduct my life. I’m responsible for my emotions and I just handle things that way.”
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