Associate Head Coach
In the latest entry to a blue collar-tinged resume that glitters with eight championship rings, Kurt Rambis in his second season as the first associate head coach in Knickerbockers history.
“We learned a lot about ourselves (last year) and how we work as a coaching staff,” says Rambis, who joined the Knicks -- his first NBA team more than three decades ago - on Jul. 7, 2014. “We also learned about what we want to do as coaches moving forward and the type of players we’d like to have on our team, and the adjustments we’d like to make on our roster. Even though, record-wise, it was not a productive year, I think internally, from the standpoint of management and the staff, it was a good year for us to kind of supplant the type of environment and culture that we would like to establish here, and how we would like to do things in a professional manner.”
Currently in his 18th season as an NBA coach, Rambis was a fixture with the Los Angeles Lakers during both the Showtime era of the 1980s and the championship years of the early 2000s. Kurt owns a total of eight NBA Championship rings, all as a Laker (four as a player, four as a coach/executive). He joined the Knicks after spending the 2013-14 season as a Lakers assistant coach under Mike D’Antoni.
“We’ve made some great strides in our draft this year, we’ve made some great strides in free agent moves,” says Kurt, 57. “We’re very positive, even though last year was a very difficult year, difficult for everybody. The mentality I’d like everybody to have is that last year was Year Zero. It wasn’t even Year One. It was Year Zero. This is Year One now, and we’re all moving forward from here.”
Kurt logged a total of 14 seasons as a Lakers assistant coach: from 1994-95 through 1998-99, from 2001-02 through 2008-09, and again in 2013-14. He also served as Lakers head coach for the second half of the 1998-99 season (winning his first nine games and leading the Forum Blue and Gold to a 24-13 mark and a trip to the Western Conference Semis), as advisor to the president in 1999-2000 and as assistant general manager in 2000-01. During his coaching/executive career with the Lakers, the team won four championships under head coach Phil Jackson (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009), with current Knicks headmaster Derek Fisher playing a vital role on each squad.
“With his experience and being on winning teams as a player and coach, Kurt was really able to bring the mentality and the mindset of not accepting losing,” says Fisher. “He continues to ask questions and push everybody, in order to find ways to make people get better. Just his mentality and the way Kurt approaches winning is something that was positive for us.”
“That’s what I feel internally,” adds Kurt. “I hate to lose, it’s just disgusting to me. I don’t see myself in that environment and I try to do everything and anything I can to turn that around and put W’s up on the board.”
In addition to his long-standing Laker tenure, Rambis also served for two seasons (2009-10 through 2010-11) as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. He owns an overall NBA head coaching mark of 56-145 (.279).
A player who epitomized the blue collar work ethic, Rambis had a 14-year NBA career (1981-82 through 1994-95) over which he averaged 5.2 points and 5.6 rebounds over 880 career games. He spent the bulk of his playing career with the Lakers, emerging as a Forum fan favorite and a key member of four NBA Championship teams (1982, 1985, 1987, 1988). He ranks fourth on the all-time NBA Playoff list with a .574 career post-season field goal percentage (minimum 150 FGM), and fifth on the all-time Lakers list in career FG pct. (.550). Kurt’s final season as a player was 1994-95, when he began the year as a special assistant coach and wound up appearing in 26 games in an emergency role as the Lakers were hit with the wave of injuries.
During his NBA career, Rambis has played or coached under some of the greatest figures in the game’s history, including Jackson, Pat Riley, Del Harris, Dick Harter, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Paul Westphal and - in his brief time in New York - Red Holzman.
Rambis’ NBA journey began when the Knicks selected him in the third round (58th overall) of the 1980 NBA Draft. Although he came to training camp and later returned to the Knicks via a 10-day contract in January 1981, he never appeared in a regular season game for New York, instead playing professionally in Greece during the 1980-81 season.
“I had an opportunity in  training camp to play overseas in Greece,” remembers Kurt. “I went down the Knicks roster. It’s an 11-man roster at that time, and I’m counting up 13 guaranteed contracts and I’m not one of them. So I go and talk to Red before the morning practice session, and I explained to him that I had this opportunity to go overseas and play in Greece...Red said, ‘No, no, no. You’re doing a great job. We love everything you’re doing.’ He was a class act, very much so.
“So I come back for the evening session thinking everything’s going to be status quo. Red pulls me into his little office and says, ‘Kurt, we’ve decided to let you take advantage of that other opportunity.’ And the funny part of the story is that he said, `But if you don’t mind, can you stick around for the evening session and practice?’ I said yeah, I had nothing else to do.”
Born on Feb. 25, 1958 in Terre Haute, IN, Rambis earned a B.S. degree in psychology from Santa Clara, where he became the school’s all-time leading scorer (1,736 points, since broken). In addition to his playing and coaching career, Kurt has served as a hoop analyst for ESPN, Fox Sports West and, in 2012-13, for the newly-formed Time Warner Cable SportsNet.
Kurt and his wife Linda make their home in Manhattan Beach, CA, and have three adult children: Jesse (29), Jordan (28) and Ali (23).