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Wolves hand reins to Rambis

MINNEAPOLIS -- At first blush, the marriage between Kurt Rambis and the Minnesota Timberwolves is a head-scratcher.

Rambis was born in Cupertino, Calif., and spent the vast majority of his playing and coaching career in sunny Los Angeles. He doesn't own a winter coat and has deep roots in a Lakers organization that has won 15 NBA titles.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, haven't been to the playoffs since 2004, have advanced to the second round just once in 20 years and call single-digit temperatures in February a heat wave.

So why would Rambis want to leave the defending NBA champions, and his post as the possible successor to Phil Jackson in star-studded L.A., to take over a team that won 24 games last season in chilly Minnesota?

"I left an incredible job in Los Angeles. That team has a chance to win several NBA championships, but when an opportunity like this comes along, to build a team like I envision and playing a style of ball I would like to teach, to work with quality individuals we already have, it could not be passed up," Rambis said Tuesday after being introduced as the ninth head coach in Timberwolves history.

His brief acting career aside, it's not like Rambis was the picture of California Cool during his playing days in the 1980s. With thick, black-rimmed glasses, frizzy hair that went in every direction and a wiry physique, Rambis looked more like one of the Hanson brothers from the hockey comedy "Slap Shot."

Considering that the three actors who played those hilarious misfits grew up in Minnesota, a place that proudly calls itself "The State of Hockey," maybe Rambis will fit in perfectly after all.

"Coming from sunny Southern California where the weather's always great, I think of snow and I think, 'It can't be all that great,'" Rambis said. "But everybody talks about how much they love living here, growing up here. They think it is a great city and I'm going to love it here."

The colder weather isn't the only thing he will have to get used to in Minnesota.

The Timberwolves have an even younger roster today than they did last season when they went 24-58. New president David Kahn has spent his first summer on the job reshaping the roster with an eye toward being a major player on the free-agent market next year. He said this week that wins may be sacrificed to give those youngsters some experience next season.

Swingman Corey Brewer, who was drafted in 2007, is the longest tenured Timberwolves player. There are building blocks in Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and, eventually, Ricky Rubio.

But this team is still expected to go through plenty of growing pains -- and losses -- in the next year or two.

"I know losing is part of it and if the players handle the situation, I'll help guide them through that," Rambis said. "Developing a distaste for losing yet all the while growing from the experiences so they can help avoid it in the future is going to be paramount for me as a coach and it's going to help them learn as players when we finally turn this franchise around and start winning."

Still, there is some trust involved for Rambis to leave the Lakers and take a job in a league with a high turnover rate for head coaches. Rambis said he wasn't sure how long Jackson would continue coaching the Lakers and jumped at the opportunity to take over a team with plenty of financial flexibility, draft picks and young talent.

"I like his ideas and I like how excited he was," Jefferson said. "He left a great job to come here and that meant a lot to me."

Owner Glen Taylor said the clincher for Rambis over finalists Mark Jackson and Elston Turner was that Rambis was recruiting the Wolves as much as the Wolves were recruiting Rambis.

"He really wanted the job and that impressed me coming out of the organization that he's been in and the opportunities that he might have there in the future," Taylor said.