The Case for Bill Laimbeer


The Timberwolves ugly 102-84 loss to Memphis last night at Target Center dropped their record to a dismal 11-37. In just over 1 ½ season at the helm of the squad, head coach Kurt Rambis has won only 26 of a possible 130 games. That’s right, he’s 26-104 – a .200 winning percentage. That’s bad. So bad in fact, there hasn’t been a word invented yet that accurately describes the awfulness of 26-104. Terrible, disgusting, putrid, abysmal, horrendous and even atrocious just don’t quite cut it.

A Rambis apologist would point out the Wolves have been much more competitive this season and have lost a lot of close games. That is true, but from a head coaching perspective even more damning. The closing minutes of a tight game is a coach’s chance to shine – or not. Using a seemingly endless array of timeouts, they micromanage the game, drawing up each play and substituting players for specific situations. And in most cases, well coached players execute the best.

With the additions of Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson and Kevin Love’s vastly improved play, the Wolves are definitely more talented than they were in 2009-10. Coming off last year’s 15-67 debacle, nobody expected the team finish .500, let alone make the playoffs this season. So, if they about had 8 more wins and were 19-29 right now, most fans would be reasonably happy. The bar is low, but to this point, out of reach for Rambis.

When the Wolves hired Rambis off the Lakers bench in August 2009, he came highly recommended having served under Phil Jackson for 8 seasons. The theory was that some of Jackson’s magic must have rubbed off on Rambis who had been a part of 6 championship teams as a player and assistant coach. It made sense and was lauded as a strong hire.

Rambis has emulated Jackson’s version of laid back arrogance, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the gravitas to pull it off. Instead, he comes off as detached, even bored, during games. Fans have griped about his lack of emotion and seeming unwillingness to defend his players after bad calls.

If the Wolves decide they’ve had enough of Rambis – and there is no indication they have – there are a couple of viable options already in the organization, assistants Reggie Theus and Bill Laimbeer. Theus, one of the league’s most prolific scorers in the late 70s and early 80s, was the head man at New Mexico State from 2005-07 and led the Aggies to a rare NCAA Tournament bid before moving onto Sacramento where he coached the Kings to a 38-44 record in 2007-08 before an 8-16 start led to his firing in December 2008.

To me, Laimbeer is more intriguing. The former Bad Boy won two championships as a player with the Pistons and then led the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to 3 league titles and 4 Finals appearances in 7 seasons as a head coach. During his stint with the Shock, Laimbeer was known as a fiery motivator and take charge leader. He took over a last place team that finished 9-23 in 2002 and piloted them to WNBA title in 2003. While it would be unrealistic to expect that to happen in Minnesota, Laimbeer has proven he can mold a bad team into a winner. By force of personality, Laimbeer could also give the team the intensity and edge they’ve lacked since Kevin Garnett left town in 2007.

With his resume and pedigree, it’s probably just a matter of time before Laimbeer gets a shot at the top spot. If it’s not in Minnesota, the Wolves could regret it. After 26-104, what are they waiting for?

One Response to “The Case for Bill Laimbeer”

  1. MinnesotaSCORE » Timberwolves “Midterm” Report Card Says:

    […] Rambis, Head Coach Rambis is now 28-110 as Wolves head coach. As we’ve been over before, that is beyond – as Charles Barkley would say – “turrible.” Despite an upgrade in talent, […]

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