Posts Tagged ‘Bernie Bickerstaff’

Coach Bickerstaff receives Daly Lifetime Achievement award


VIDEO: Bickerstaff receives Daly Lifetime Achievement award

SAN ANTONIO – In 41 years as an NBA coach and executive, across five decades, Bernie Bickerstaff learned, deployed, imparted and maybe even forgot more X’s and O’s than used in all the episodes of Hollywood Squares combined.

But when it came time to reflect on his career – which continues these days as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers – Bickerstaff defaulted to faces and names and people. That is the NBA he has most enjoyed, the one he thanked Thursday for “letting [him] come along on this wonderful ride for 40-plus years.”

“I’ve been fortunate to start a lot of good relationships,” Bickerstaff said, “with ball boys, with trainers, PR people, assistant coaches, head coaches, general managers, presidents, owners – and even some of those owners and general managers who decided they wanted to go in a different direction.”

Bickerstaff, 70, was presented with the 2014 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, as chosen by the National Basketball Coaches Association, prior to Game 1 of The Finals. As described by NBCA president Rick Carlisle, coach of the Dallas Mavericks, the Daly award honors competitive integrity, diversity, longevity and “the thing that Chuck always talked about, which was love and respect for the game.”

That love and respect was looping back toward Bickerstaff at the AT&T Center. Fellow coaches Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson made sure to be in the audience for Bickerstaff’s news conference. His sons John-Blair, an assistant on Houston coach Kevin McHale‘s staff, and Bernard were in the front row. And so was his wife of 46 years, Eugenia. “Like Chuck, she knew the buttons to push – she didn’t always know when but she knew the buttons to push,” Bickerstaff said.

Bickerstaff , a native of Benham, Ky., has worked at the NBA’s highest levels throughout his career, not just on the bench but in the front office. He became the youngest assistant coach in league history, joining the Washington Bullets’ staff at age 29 in 1973. He had made the jump from the University of San Diego, and the differences were immediately apparent.

“When I joined the Bullets in ’73 I didn’t have a clue about the NBA,” he recalled. “I was mesmerized by all the picks that they set. There was one, two, three, four picks, and basically in college you go off one screen and you go to the other side of the screen and that was it.

“And the talent. When you think of the team we had, we had [Wes] Unseld, Elvin Hayes, Archie Clark, Phil Chenier – the talent level was so much different than it was at the University of San Diego.”

In Washington, Bickerstaff worked for K.C. Jones and Dick Motta and helped the Bullets reach The Finals three times, winning the franchise’s only championship in 1978. In 1985, he was hired as head coach of the Seattle SuperSonics and led them to three postseason appearances in five years.

Of those Sonics clubs, his personal favorites, Bickerstaff said: “They were all 6-8, 6-9, so the things that you could do defensively. They were athletic, they were mentally tough. But we couldn’t get by the Lakers, you know?”

The Denver Nuggets offered Bickerstaff the role of president and GM in 1990, and he took over as head coach four years later, guiding them to the first No. 8 vs. No. 1 playoff upset in NBA history.

In 1997, he went back to Washington as head coach for three seasons. In 2004, the Charlotte Bobcats hired him as coach and GM. And Bickerstaff served between and after those gigs as an assistant with Chicago, Portland and the L.A. Lakers. In fact, when he temporarily took over on the Lakers bench between Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni in 2012, his 4-1 mark moved him high on that franchise’s all-time success list.

Bickerstaff ranks No. 41 all-time in NBA coaching victories (419) and No. 29 in games coached (937).

When San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich saw Bickerstaff near the interview room in the hours before Game 1’s tipoff, he heartily congratulated him. “He’s one of those guys you call a ‘lifer,’ like a lifer in the military or in the NBA,” Popovich said. “He’s helped many people be better coaches and better people, and that’s one of the reasons he’s here tonight for that award.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra grew up in Portland as a Trail Blazers fan when Bickerstaff was working in Seattle and teased him from the podium Thursday evening. “I didn’t like the Sonics when he was coaching there,” Spoelstra said, “but he had some great teams out there and all of his different spots.”

Said Bickerstaff: “I think the two fortunate people here tonight are Spo and Coach Popovich because they’ve got a chance to walk home with the crown.”

Brown, the former Cavs and Lakers coach, was brought into the league by Bickerstaff as Denver’s video coordinator in 1992. He hired Brown as an assistant in 1997, too, after his move back to Washington.

“‘NBA coach Mike Brown’ would not be in existence if it wasn’t for Bernie,” Brown told the Cleveland Plain Dealer upon learning of Bickerstaff’s award. “I’m thrilled for him. He’s got his name etched in stone in a few other places, but this place is one of the best. It’s a neat award for what Bernie has given to the game of basketball. He definitely has contributed to the growth of the NBA in his own way. His longevity in itself is an accomplishment.”

The Daly award, conceived in 2009, is dedicated to the memory of Hall of Famer Chuck Daly, who coached for four NBA franchises over 14 seasons, led the Detroit “Bad Boys” to consecutive championships in 1989 and 1990 and was voted one of the league’s Top 10 coaches of all-time in 1996.

The award is selected by a committee of NBA insiders, including Popovich, Riley, Billy Cunningham, Donnie Walsh, Lenny Wilkens, Joe Dumars and Phil Jackson. Past winners include Bill Fitch (2013), Riley (2012), Wilkens (2011), Tex Winters and Jack Ramsay (2010) and Tommy Heinsohn (2009).

No Hard Feelings As Brown Gets To Work

x

LAS VEGAS – Mike Brown was wearing a black coach’s polo shirt with the Cleveland Cavaliers logo, the “C” with the sword through it on the left breast, and it didn’t feel all that weird anymore.

“It was weird for a while,” Brown said Saturday after watching the Cavs’ Summer League team lose to Miami 82-76. “But it was a seamless transition for myself and my family. It almost, to a certain degree after we got over the initial shock of it, it almost felt like we never really left. It was almost like we went on vacation for a little bit.”

That’s certainly a pleasant way for Brown to describe his short tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers that ended after one full season and five games into last season. That’s when he was unceremoniously dumped by the Lakers following a 1-4 start. The basketball world expected Phil Jackson to come down from the mountaintop to replace him, but instead L.A. chose Mike D’Antoni. Everybody knows the roller-coaster season that followed, the infighting, the injuries, the criticism, the first-round sweep.

Then came the ultimate insult in the first week of July when Dwight Howard announced he was joining the Houston Rockets.

Brown said he paid little attention to the Lakers soap opera once he left, finding a way to separate his emotions from the job he had just lost coaching Kobe Bryant, just three years after being fired by the Cavs as the franchise panicked awaiting a decision, The Decision, from LeBron James.

“I watched Mater Dei High School basketball and I enjoyed it,” Brown said. “I appreciated the opportunity the Buss family gave me and [Lakers general manager] Mitch Kupchak. I enjoyed being around all the players and working with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and those guys. But when they made the decision I was all-in with my family.”

And so Brown really can go home again, to the city he says he and family loves, where his youngest son wanted to return and graduate from high school with his old pals, to the place the Brown family was returning before he ever received a phone call. Then his phone rang.

The rest is a Q&A with new Cavaliers coach Mike Brown:

Q: Who made the first call leading to your return to the Cavs?

A: Chris Grant (Cavaliers general manager) did. He caught me off-guard a little bit, you know, but it was a business call more than anything else.

Q: Did it take some time to process his reason for calling?

A: No, it was just the first step because it was new to me and I’m sure it was probably fairly new to them, so it was a thing that was a process. But again, we were on our way back to the area regardless because we love the area. My youngest boy wanted to graduate from high school there with his friends and my oldest boy had signed with Butler University which was about a 4 ½ drive, so it was a nice fit. When the call happened it was just a thing to process more than anything else.

Q: Were you convinced there were no bridges burned on either end after your firing in 2010?

A: I never forget, one of the guys that I hired, Bernie Bickerstaff, that was one of the first things that he taught me. … He told me, ‘Young buck, don’t ever burn any bridges in this business or in life.’ It was an easy piece of advice for me to follow because that’s how I’m built. You appreciate any opportunity you are given in life and try to make the most of it. When I was here last time I had a fantastic ride, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I was involved with.

Q: Your team has an intriguing roster led by young All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and the front office made several moves to add depth. How complete do you believe this team to be?

A: We’ll see. First of all, this organization is one of the best, if not the best, top to bottom because it starts with your owner and our owner Dan Gilbert has a done a lot to make sure that we’re heading in the right direction toward a championship. And you go from him to Chris Grant and you look at the job that he’s done with little or no credit, in terms of the draft picks and the trades that he’s made in the past couple of years and you feel like with the roster and the staff that we put together, and having guys like Kyrie and Dion [Waiters] and Andrew [Bynum] and Andy [Verajao], so on and so forth, Jarrett Jack, that you feel like you have put a competitive team together and we should be able to go compete for a championship, which is my goal every year.

Q: Since returning to Cleveland, how have you found the emotional state of the fans three years after The Decision?

A: Pre-LeBron, post-LeBron, the Cleveland fans have always been terrific. Even the year that I was out [of coaching] and I was in Cleveland, we really enjoyed that area and walking around, whether it was downtown or out in Westlake where we live, and coming across fans in general because they’re very passionate. Not only about the Cavaliers, they’re passionate about the Browns, they’re passionate about the Indians and about their city, so they’re in a good mindset right now.”

Q: Do you sense the fans have renewed hope for the franchise or that a buzz has returned about the team?

A: Yeah, you feel that, and again you credit Dan Gilbert and Chris Grant for putting this thing together and trying to get us in the right direction before the actual season starts off. The buzz that is out there is a nice one right now, and hopefully it will be able to continue to stay like that through the course of the year and just progress.”

Gasol And Howard A Bad Mix Under D’Antoni … Sound Familiar?

.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Mike D’Antoni is right. The Lakers have been much better with only one of their two $19 million big men on the floor than with both of them together.

That was D’Antoni’s explanation when he said before Monday’s game in Chicago that Pau Gasol would be coming off the bench until further notice. And the numbers back D’Antoni up, even after the Lakers lost to the Bulls by 12 in a game in which Gasol and Dwight Howard played just seven minutes together.

Lakers efficiency with Gasol and/or Howard on the floor

On floor MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Gasol + Howard 612 102.7 103.5 -0.8 -14
Gasol only 329 110.7 101.0 +9.7 +61
Howard only 736 108.1 100.5 +7.5 +83
One of the two 1,065 108.9 100.7 +8.2 +144

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Offensively, with both Gasol and Howard on the floor, the Lakers have scored at a rate that would rank 12th in the league. With only one of the two on the floor, they’ve scored at a rate that would rank second.

Defensively, with both Gasol and Howard in the game, the Lakers are defending at a rate that would rank 19th in the league. With only one of the two in the game, they’re defending at a rate that would rank ninth.

Overall, with Gasol and Howard on the floor together, the Lakers have the point differential of a 37-win team. With only one of the two on the floor, they have a point differential of a 61-win team.

The question, of course, is why the Lakers can’t play well with two of the best big men in the league on the floor together. And it’s hard not to point at the coach, because things were OK before D’Antoni took over.

Lakers efficiency with Gasol and Howard on the floor together

Coach GP MIN OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Brown 5 135 110.8 95.4 +15.5 +41
Bickerstaff 5 130 105.4 100.8 +4.6 +6
D’Antoni 18 346 98.6 107.7 -9.1 -61

Five games apiece for Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff are small sample sizes, but it’s clear that the Lakers’ early issues weren’t with their bigs. When they got off to a 1-4 start under Brown, the bench was more of a problem.

The big man issues under D’Antoni are on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Gasol is a different player when he’s on the floor with Howard. In those 612 minutes, just 44 percent of his 208 shots have come from the paint. With Howard on the bench, 67 percent of Gasol’s 109 shots have come from the paint.

D’Antoni’s system calls for three shooters around a point guard (who can also shoot) and a pick-and-roll big man. And Gasol can’t space the floor like a true stretch four.

Gasol’s shooting with Howard on and off the floor

Howard on/off FGM FGA FG% %FGA paint
Howard on floor 83 208 39.9% 44.2%
Howard off floor 54 109 49.5% 67.0%

Here’s the thing: Gasol played 5 1/2 seasons with Andrew Bynum. And with Bynum on the floor, Gasol still took 66 percent of his shots from the paint, because Phil Jackson‘s offense allowed for two post players. The Lakers were a very good offensive team with the two bigs on the floor together.

Defensively, the Lakers have breakdowns all over the place this season, mostly with guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. But there’s no clear explanation why they’re much better with only one of the two bigs on the floor. It may be a foot speed issue, and they may just be able to recover better with a smaller, quicker player at the four. Under Jackson, they were better defensively with Lamar Odom at the four than with Bynum and Gasol out there together.

Still, this is all kind of ridiculous. And it’s all too familiar. On the last team D’Antoni coached, he had two guys making about $40 million combined who couldn’t play well together either.

Under D’Antoni, the New York Knicks were a minus-137 and absolutely awful defensively in 1,506 minutes with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the floor together. The coach’s inability to get his two stars on the same page is a big reason he isn’t in New York anymore. Under Mike Woodson, the Knicks are even (plus-0) in 497 minutes with Anthony and Stoudemire on the floor together.

The Lakers probably aren’t going to be making another coaching change. Instead, Gasol is probably on his way out the door. And we can only wonder what might have been had L.A. hired Jackson when they let go of Brown in November … or if they had just kept Brown.

D’Antoni Must Bend If Lakers Are To Mend

HANGTIME SOUTHWEST – Most disappointing about Mike D’Antoni‘s 10-13 start with the Los Angeles Lakers is the smug realization that he took seven seconds or less to contemplate his stubborn, unbending tactics. Rather than modify the ideas that suffocated the New York Knicks and sent him packing, D’Antoni instead shoved that baggage into the overhead compartment and set out for sunny L.A., where the skies have quickly darkened to a shade of misery and contempt.

His Lakers are in a deeper hole today at 15-18 — with Steve Nash back for the last seven games — than the day D’Antoni limped into Tinseltown on a freshly implanted, still-stiff and achy knee. Phil Jackson, rejected by a surprise midnight phone call, was the favorite to take over by many. But he was left to blissfully carry on his shopping for a rock to slip on the waiting finger of the daughter of D’Antoni’s new boss.

Perhaps D’Antoni — arms crossed, lips pursed and eyes vacant sitting while on the Lakers bench — simply tuned out the “We want Phil” chant in the Staples Center during Sunday’s most recent implosion, just as he has dialed down his interest level in his veteran players. As the Lakers were again being pulverized at home in the fourth quarter by the Denver Nuggets, the 112-105 loss their third straight loss, the cry of the fandom began to swirl.

The “We want Phil” chorus didn’t rock the house as it did two months ago, but it did rise up for the first time since the glorious interim era of Bernie Bickerstaff, the only coach of this season’s trio (including Chick-Fil-A-loving Mike Brown) to post a winning record. Bickerstaff took four of five just as it seemed Jackson was saddling up his white stallion.

Now, D’Antoni’s lifeless Lakers have lost four of five, and the suffering promises to deepen considering Monday’s catastrophic injury news: Dwight Howard (torn labrum), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (hip) will be sidelined indefinitely.

With L.A.’s front line out of commission, winning at red-hot Houston on Tuesday night, at San Antonio on Wednesday and then Friday at home against Oklahoma City just got harder than quieting former Lakers great Magic Johnson’s criticism on Twitter.

In his most recent social-media monologue, Johnson, unabashedly critical of D’Antoni’s hiring and over the weeks his failure to tailor his system to his talent, says he’s tired of blaming the coach. It’s time, he tweeted, to expect more from the players if this wreck is to be yanked from the ditch.

But lumping all this on the Lakers’ luxury-tax-blasting roster of All-Stars would be to allow a perplexingly defiant D’Antoni to wiggle off the hook. Through 23 games, more than one-quarter of a regular season, D’Antoni has only provided his critics with ammunition.

His teams will never defend at a championship level because there is no foundation for defending. Offensively, he’ll jam his genius, guard-heavy system down his players’ throats, fit be damned, forcing square pegs into round holes with Gasol being the biggest square of all.

In Friday’s loss to the Clippers, Gasol wandered aimlessly around the arc where D’Antoni wants him, ineffective as a jump shooter, appearing terribly uncomfortable mechanically, forcibly bending his knees and flicking his wrist like some ill-formed shooting guard, all the while out of position to snare offensive rebounds, a category in which he is averaging a career low.

Two nights later against Denver, Gasol was far more active in the first half, backing down on the block, rolling to the basket for an alley-oop pass from Kobe Bryant, who has consistently championed his championship-winning big man’s need for the ball on the block to little avail. And then in the second half, Gasol disappeared, a non-factor, a figment of D’Antoni’s imagination until a blow bloodied Gasol’s nose and jarred his brain.

If D’Antoni is too entrenched in his beliefs to use Gasol in his rightful place, then what’s the use? Trade him already for shooters and legs better suited for the system.

Meanwhile, Antawn Jamison, a member of L.A.’s shallow bench who is capable of fulfilling the stretch-4 role and stands to see increased playing time in wake of the injury explosion, is now a walking ball of confusion. The coaching staff told him more than a month ago that he could be this team’s equivalent to Shawn Marion on D’Antoni and Nash’s old blazing Suns teams. Only Jamison is 36, not 27, and has never defended quite the way Marion still can.

Still, Jamison expressed school-boy giddiness in early December about playing in D’Antoni’s system and he nearly burst with exuberance about Nash’s impending return. And then, without explanation, the 15-year vet fell out of the rotation. After five consecutive DNP-Coach’s Decision, he vented to the media over D’Antoni’s inexplicable lack of communication.

For these Lakers, who one-by-one have taken turns being agitated, everything looks to be a struggle. The offense shifts from Howard fighting off collapsing defenses with teammates hopelessly standing around the arc, to Kobe going full-on Black Mamba as his teammates watch. Turnovers, even with Nash, are prevalent. The defense is atrocious.

Trust on the most basic level — between players, and between players and the head coach — appears nonexistent.

If D’Antoni wants to prove he is a great leader then he must bend, prove his system to be pliable, reveal a human touch. Or, with that stiff upper lip, he will continue to defy the obvious and arrogantly self-destruct, taking this team with him.

Once Tops In Close Ones, Lakers Sink Down To NBA’s Worst

 

One of the more cautionary stats for good teams, pretty much across all sports, is an impressive record in close games. While that suggests lots of potential good things – the ability to close out victories, an overall “clutchness” of key performers, savvy late-game strategizing – it also can indicate a foundation of sand.

As in, it’s a lot more likely to have close games flip the other way, at the slightest provocation, if all those variables don’t line up just so.

The good news, conversely, would seem to be a likelihood that a poor record in close games could go the other way on a moment’s notice too. A few more free throws here, a little more calm there and, voila!, all is well again.

The Lakers and their fans still might have reasons for hope, if they can get past the Hack-a-Dwight (Howard) failures. Yes, they’re down right now. But they’re down by slim margins in situations in which they historically used to be up. L.A.’s record in games decided by three points or fewer is an NBA-worst 0-3. Its mark in games with margins up to 10: 1-11. That, too, puts them at the league bottom.

Small margins, yes, but no small thing. According to ESPN Stats, the Lakers had the NBA’s best record from 2007-08 through last season in games of 10 or less: 149-74, a winning percentage of .668. Their mark in those decided by three points or fewer was a solid 37-28, .569. Twice they led the league in winning nail-biters, with 11 in 2009-10 and 10 last season.

At 9-11, you’d expect the Lakers to have some other ugly numbers and they do. They’re 4-7 against foes that are .500 or better. They are the worst in turnovers (16.5 per game). They are bottom 10 in assists (20.8 per game) and 20th in defensive field-goal percentage (43.8). But not closing out close games, whether it’s due to bricked free throws late or Steve Nash‘s unavailability to impose order in crucial possessions down the stretch.

Here at HTB we expect this to change. Then again, we didn’t expect six weeks into the season that Bernie Bickerstaff (4-1) would be the most successful of the Lakers’ three head coaches.

D’Antoni To Make Lakers Debut Tonight

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Los Angeles Lakers fans won’t have to wait any longer to see their new head coach, crutches and all, working the sidelines. Mike D’Antoni will indeed make his debut on the job tonight when the Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets (10:30 p.m. ET on NBA TV).

There were conflicting stories Monday regarding his status. But Lakers spokesman John Black confirmed to USA Today‘s Rachel Shuster this afternoon that D’Antoni, who is rehabbing from knee replacement surgery, will be on the bench tonight, with the blessing of the team’s longtime athletic trainer Gary Vitti:

“Mike told me he won’t let Gary talk him out of it tonight,” Black told Shuster.

D’Antoni’s been on the job, technically speaking, for nearly two weeks. Mike Brown was fired after a 1-4 start and D’Antoni was tabbed as his replacement two days later, getting the nod over Phil Jackson.

But Bernie Bickerstaff has been in the big chair on the sideline in the meantime, piling up a 4-1 record on his watch as the Lakers have clawed their way back to .500 in the interim. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard and the crew have played just fine during that span, losing only to the San Antonio Spurs on a Danny Green buzzer-beater on Nov. 14.

But the Lakers have been working within D’Antoni’s system since he took over and the improved results are evident. It’s a change that hasn’t been lost on some of the more vocal critics of the hire, as Shuster pointed out, guys like Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who favored a Jackson return to the Lakers over going in a new direction with D’Antoni:

“I must admit the @Lakers are more fun to watch under coach D’Antoni’s system,” Johnson tweeted, comparing the team’s energy now vs. early in the season under Brown. “Coach D’Antoni has the @Lakers playing a more uptempo offense with great ball movement.”

D’Antoni is returning just in time for a rugged road stretch that will see the Lakers play in Sacramento (Wednesday) and in Memphis (Friday) and Dallas (Saturday) before returning home for a three-game home stand next week.

But you better believe all eyes will be on the Staples Center tonight for D’Antoni’s debut!

Larry Brown To The Timberwolves?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This one sounds too good to be true.

As if the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t done everything in David Kahn‘s powers to make themselves the most interesting non-playoff team in the league this summer, now comes word that their seemingly never-ending coaching search has taken yet another sharp turn toward yet another Hall of Famer.

Larry Brown is the man in Kahn’s crosshairs these days, per a report from Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:

After interviewing Rick Adelman and Don Nelson over the weekend, the Timberwolves intend to interview Larry Brown and possibly one or two others in this first phase to replace fired coach Kurt Rambis.

When the Wolves will interview Brown, who has coached teams to both NBA and NCAA titles, is uncertain because of a recent death in his family, according to a league source with knowledge of the team’s search.

If they do, they will have interviewed two coaches among the top six all time in NBA career victories. Nelson is No. 1 with 1,335. Brown is No. 6 with 1,098.

The Wolves so far have interviewed Bernie Bickerstaff, Terry Porter, Mike Woodson, Adelman and Nelson. Add Brown to that list and four of those candidates are age 65 or older, a sign team President David Kahn is looking for experience and track record for such a young team.

Brown, 70, has coached nine NBA teams and was fired by Charlotte 28 games into last season. He would appear to be a long shot for the job, because he’s not the kind of coach with fast-break basketball in his bones and is known for being impatient with young players. He also often wants to trade much of the roster after taking a new job.

But there is a connection here: He and Kahn have known each other since the late 1970s, when Brown coached UCLA and Kahn was a student-newspaper reporter there, and Kahn considers Brown one of his mentors.

We’d be lying if we said we’re anything other than completely intrigued by the idea of Brown and Kahn rekindling their working relationship, albeit with a much different dynamic now with Kahn as the boss.

As infuriating as it can be watching the Timberwolves operate sometimes, we have to admit that Kahn keeps things extremely interesting.

Now if he can just make a decision on his next coach a little faster than he did in firing his Rambis …

Wolves (Finally) Fire Rambis

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Exactly 90 days after the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season ended, GM David Kahn has announced a decision regarding his head coach. The Wolves announced Tuesday that they have relieved Kurt Rambis of his coaching duties.

The timing of the announcement is curious, to say the least. Hang Time head honcho Sekou Smith has been blogging about Rambis’ status regularly since April, and the idea that he wouldn’t be back for the 2011-12 season has been out there for quite awhile.

Yet Kahn chose to wait until now to make the official announcement. And in doing so, he’s lost the opportunity to interview some of the best available candidates, guys like Mike Brown and Dwane Casey, who have already been scooped up by teams that decided not to let their current coach twist in the wind for three months. The timing will also make it difficult for the Wolves’ next coach to fill out his staff with available assistants.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!, who first broke the news of Rambis’ dismissal, writes that candidates to replace Rambis include Bernie Bickerstaff and Kelvin Sampson.

But Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the Rockets have hired Sampson and J.B. Bickerstaff (Bernie’s son) as assistants under Kevin McHale.

With the Detroit Pistons still yet to name a new coach, former head guys Lawrence Frank and Mike Woodson are still on the market as well.

***

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.