“I sound like that guy on 'Saturday Night Live': 'The Lakers have been berra berra good to me,'” Rambis told ESPNLA.com on Monday, mimicking Garrett Morris’ (one of Crystal's contemporaries in the 1970s) SNL impression of a Dominican baseball player. “It’s been a great association with myself and the Lakers. Obviously they have provided an awful lot of opportunities for me, as a player, assistant coach, head coach, front office opportunities. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and this is just another path. Just another path with the Lakers and it’s going to be interesting. I’m excited about it.”
Rambis never strayed too far from the team after being fired from the Minnesota Timberwolves following the 2010-11 season. His wife, Linda, continued to work as a manager for special projects for the Lakers, and last season Rambis split his time as a network analyst for both ESPN and Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers' cable television broadcast partner.
Now he finds himself in the position of being responsible for fixing any problems that should arise with the Lakers next season rather than just pointing out the problems on TV.
Rambis touched on a variety of topics over the phone just hours after he announced the news of his reunion with the franchise via Twitter.
On the Lakers' disappointing 2012-13 season
"It was a very difficult year for the Lakers. We talked about it on ESPN and Time Warner. Any time that you add an awful lot of new players, which is basically what the Lakers did, there’s an assimilation process that has to happen. Even just dealing with terminology, you might be thinking the same thing, but everybody calls it something different or can call it something different depending on what team they came from or coaching environment they came from. So, just getting everybody to be connected out there on the floor offensively and defensively was going to take some time. And it did. Then you throw in a coaching change, you throw in players getting injured, that stagnates the process.
"Obviously the death of Dr. [Jerry] Buss and what he meant to this organization and the team and leadership, for awhile it seemed like the Lakers [were reeling from his loss]. Then obviously everything that went on with the Lakers throughout the season –- lineup changes and injuries -– it just wasn’t conducive to having a great team. There were high expectations on that team. Even myself, from the very beginning, I thought that team had a great chance to win the championship. A lot of things had to work right for them in order for that to happen, but they had a great shot. If that was going to happen, everything kind of almost had to be perfect, and it just never worked out that way. There were just so many things that went wrong all season long, and that’s the nature of the sports business. It doesn’t always work out perfectly for you.
"But when you look at how the Lakers played or how well they played since the third week in January, they started playing some good ball. They started getting connected and from that point on, ‘Hey, this looks like a team that can do some damage in the playoffs,’ until Kobe goes down and then everything changes once again. It was just a completely disruptive up-and-down year for the Lakers. You need that sort of consistency and continuity in order to excel at a really high level."
On Kobe Bryant's health
"His injury is going to be one of the big ifs of this upcoming season. Steve Nash’s health, losing Dwight [Howard], Kobe’s injury, new players on the team, those are all going to be ifs, how everything transpires. Everything I’m hearing about Kobe, he’s feeling great and he’s going to come back well. But that still remains to be seen. You still got to get out there on the floor and see what adjustments he has to make and see how he recovers from it. But if anybody can, if anybody has the drive to do it, he’s that guy. I’m sure he’s going to do everything that he can to get himself back healthy and playing at a very high level as soon as possible."
On what he learned in his time away from the Lakers
"I think any time that you go to different environments and different cultures, coaching clinics, you’re always learning something about basketball. Like I said earlier, if you’re stagnant in your beliefs and coaching philosophy and style, then you’re basically falling behind. So, it was a great learning experience for me going to Minnesota. It was a great experience being involved with television with ESPN and Time Warner. I think they’ve all been beneficial for me. It’s just going to add to being able to help Mike [D'Antoni] out as much as I can."
Rambis also appeared on "The Max & Marcellus Show" on ESPN LA 710 radio Monday and answered more questions about his new opportunity with his old team.
On how his hiring came about
“This is absolutely Mike D’Antoni’s call. As long as I’ve been with the Laker organization, they don’t put pressure on the head coach to hire certain people. They might make suggestions, but they’ve always let the head coach hire whoever he wanted to hire, except obviously a little bit of an obstacle last year when multiple coaches were involved after the firing of Mike Brown. But, under normal circumstances, the head coach brings in his staff and the Lakers organization has always let the head coach do that.”
On what style D'Antoni will implement next season
"Mike understands that the team can’t play with blinding speed. They don’t have the wing runners, they don’t have the athleticism that you need in order to do that. I think Mike, when you look at getting Steve and what Steve can do in terms of creating shots and then trying to accommodate Kobe and what he can do out there on the floor, started adjusting and adapting and playing a brand of ball that suited the team. But, you never look at a coach [and go], ‘Hey, this is a way I we think we can play,’ and then if they can’t play that way, make the adjustments and adapt. I think Mike did that over the year, but I think there just wasn’t enough time to really implement the things to involve Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol and Kobe inside that you really need to in order for that type of team with that talent to excel at the level that they needed to excel at to make a long playoff run."
On how his style of play as a player translates to his coaching
"I would hope that any coach is trying to get players to play tough, to play hard, to play a physical brand of basketball. You have to, when you start looking at the playoffs and how the game changes. If you want your players to have success, you have to get them to where they can overcome injuries, to where they can keep their focus intact despite a very hostile environment, and you got to have a certain toughness and nastiness that goes along with that. You can see players that rise above the distractions, that rise above the obstacles and can continue to play well, if not better. Those are the type of players that you want, and those are the type of characteristics you want to instill in your ballplayers that if it gets tough and you start to wilt, you’re not going to survive in this league and you’re certainly not going to survive in the playoffs. So, we want our players to be tough, we want them to be nasty and we want them to be able to feel comfortable whenever the environment gets tough."