Mychal Thompson is arguably the greatest Gophers basketball player of all-time. He happens to know new Wolves head coach Kurt Rambis well. They were teammates with the Lakers for a season-and-a-half and for the last five years Thompson has been the team's radio analyst. Over those five years, Thompson had a great seat to watch Rambis coordinate LA's defense. I swapped emails with Thompson this week. The topic: Rambis.
(***Note: This email exchange was done prior to the news that Shaquille O'Neal called Thompson a horrible player...if done after, it would've been raised.)
Q: The Wolves' biggest issue last year was their perimeter defense. No. 2 was Jefferson's defense. Will Rambis, with his defensive acumen, motivate the guys to improve in those two areas?
A: Defense will be better under Rambis because he will demand you play it...Because HE was that type of player.
Q: I was told the Lakers, under Rambis, basically flooded the strong side with an extra guy, and if the other team isn't particularly adept at switching the basketball, they're in big trouble. Even if they do switch, the rotations are quick enough to disrupt when effort is there (though that's when having long guys like Ariza/Odom/Bynum/Gasol helps). Can Gomes-Brewer-Jefferson-Love get that done?
A: Yes! Minnesota's players are quick enough to handle the quick rotations required to play Rambis-style defense...Plus, you have intelligent players in, Jefferson, Love, Flynn and Gomes...so, they'll pick up strategies quickly.
Q: Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan doesn't like the move. He wrote Friday: If you are made of the stuff of outstanding head coaches, you don't sit in the cushy chair next to (Phil) Jackson. You find an uncomfortable head coach's seat in the CBA, or at a high school, or a small college. You learn the craft of running a team, which is far different than the craft of running one or two aspects of a team.
How do you respond to that?
A: Kurt doesn't need to start from the bottom of the coaching rung because he learned from 2 of the best coaches in history -- Riley and Jackson.You can't get better experience than THAT!
Q: What kind of personality does Rambis have...and will it translate to such a young team?
A: Kurt has a great sense of humor...doesn't take himself so seriously...and he knows how to talk to people. Young players feel very comfortable around him.
Q: Correct me if I'm wrong, but I heard that Rambis is a very demanding coach. The Wolves had a demanding coach recently in Randy Wittman and he didn't work out. Why will Kurt be different?
A: ***Mychal accidentally skipped over this question. My thought: We saw it on display Tuesday at the news conference. Rambis is Phil Jackson-like. His speech, mannerisms, etc... Phil is demanding, yet respectful of players. He screams only when screaming is completely necessary. I think Wittman had a tendency to overdo it in that area. Early, I don't get the sense that Rambis is like that.
Q: He wouldn't run the Triangle offense -- would he? And if not, what kind of offense could you see him running?
A: Offense? He'll run a combination of the Triangle and conventional offense...mix things up a bit...as Phil did.
Q: If he called and said, "Mychal, I want you on my staff." What would you say?
A: If Kurt called me and offered me a job on his staff -- what would I say? ''Hello, Northwest Airlines? Yeah...uhhh, when is your next flight to Minneapolis?''
Q: Some say he was the logical replacement for Big Chief Triangle...if so, why not stay in L.A.?
A: I think Kurt believes Phil's gonna coach a few more years...Why leave a team that can win 2 or 3 more championships? So Kurt figures...I want to be a head coach and I'm tired of waiting...and the Wolves are an up and coming young team...So, the timing is right!