Kurt Rambis tasked with improving Knicks defense

ByIan Begley via ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
ESPN

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The Knicks have put assistant coach Kurt Rambis in charge of their defense in an effort to clean up their most glaring issue amid a 2-4 start.

The move, first reported by ESPN's Marc Stein, was made a day after the Knicks allowed 65 second-half points in a home loss to the Utah Jazz. Through six games, the Knicks rank 30th in defensive efficiency and have allowed 109.8 points per game.

"I just felt that we're probably better off with just one voice, so Kurt, we are going to have him be the voice on the defense," coach Jeff Hornacek said.

Previously, Hornacek suggested that the responsibility of forming a defensive game plan was shared among his assistants. Now, assistant coaches still will have input but it will be funneled through Rambis, who will in turn communicate it to Hornacek.

When asked why Rambis was chosen to coach the defense rather than another assistant, Hornacek said, "It could've been anybody."

"It could've been Jerry [Sichting], could have been Corey [Gaines]. We all talk as a coaching staff about the same things," he added. "So Kurt had some of these guys last year. Just felt it was better to put him in that."

Knicks president Phil Jackson considered hiring Rambis as his full-time head coach last spring after he went 9-19 as an interim coach to end the club's 32-win season. But Jackson ultimately decided to hire Hornacek, who in turn chose to retain Rambis as an assistant.

Rambis was in charge of the Lakers' defense when they went to back-to-back NBA Finals (2008, 2009). Those Lakers teams were strong defensively, finishing in the top 10 in defensive efficiency in each season. Rambis also served as a head coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Those clubs struggled on defense, finishing 29th and 30th, respectively, in defensive efficiency.

The Knicks worked mostly on defense in Tuesday's practice, specifically practicing their pick-and-roll coverage.

After practice, Carmelo Anthony was asked if the players were comfortable with the decision to assign the club's defense to Rambis.

"Whether we're comfortable with it or not, it is what it is, and we got to buy into that and embrace that," he said. "[We have to] just focus in on our schemes and what we want to do and just have kinda a foundation of how we gonna do it and what we gonna do and go by that."