Rambis Has Season To Prove

Kurt Rambis, the epitome of a blue-collar player, was hired as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, taking over a star-studded but struggling team that just added Dennis Rodman.

A forward on four Lakers NBA championship teams, the 41-year-old Rambis replaces Del Harris, who was fired Wednesday after the Lakers lost three straight to fall to 6-6.

When Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak introduced Rambis during a press conference, Rambis smiled and asked, "What? No applause?"

Rambis and fellow assistant Larry Drew were the candidates for the job. Bill Bertka, 71, also a Lakers assistant, coached the team in Thursday's victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Rambis' coaching debut will come only hours after he being hired -- in a rematch at the Forum against the Clippers. It will also be Rodman's first game in a Lakers uniform.

Kupchak said Rambis would be the coach through the end of the season, when management will evaluate his performance.

Unless Rambis has considerable success, the Lakers may go after a high-profile coach, such as former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, following the season.

Rambis, a player who seemed to make up for what he lacked in natural ability with hard work and determination, continued that when he became an assistant, Kupchak said recently.

"He is the hardest worker of any assistant I have ever seen," Kupchak said. "He continues to ask questions every day, he watches tape and he is eager to learn. "

"He had to know details (of the game) more than other players (who had more talent), and that certainly didn't hurt him. He speaks well and, most importantly, he has been involved in a winning organization for many years."

Rambis said when it was announced he was being considered for the Lakers' post: "It's not an easy job, head coaching in the Los Angeles area, because of the high expectations. "

"I can't settle for anything less than winning a championship. That's all I looked at as a player, and that's all I look at as a coach."

Rambis averaged 5.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 813 regular-season career games. He played seven years for the Lakers and won championship rings with them in 1982, '85, '87 and '88. He retired in 1995.

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