Rudy T. Steps Down

 —  February 1, 2005

According to ESPN, Rudy T. is stepping down after tonight’s game, citing health reasons. He was in the first year of a five-year, $30 million contract. Frank Hamblen will get his job for the rest of the season.

Apparently, there are two issues. First was health concerns, Rudy T. was less than a a year out from serious bladder cancer and the heavy grind of the NBA season was apparently taking its toll.

The other was frustration with the Lakers play — something we all seem to share. Rudy T. seemed unable to reach this team. I think back to the moment earlier this season when, when the Laker broadcast came back from a commercial, sideline report John Ireland said he overheard Rudy and the coaching staff telling the team to stop taking threes. Then, the next couple trips down the court, threes went up.

At times Rudy T. looked lost with his rotations and inability to find a core group he could count on night in and night out. One night Brian Cook looks like he should start, the next night he can’t hit a lay-up and his defense is useless. That’s not to pick on Cook, the entire Laker roster has pretty much been a roller coaster all season.

When he was hired, I think Rudy T. pictured the Laker lineup to be Gary Payton, Kobe, Lamar Odom, Karl Malone and Vlade Divac, with Caron Butler first off the bench. That lineup could have done a lot of damage in the West. Instead, he’s got perennial back-up Chucky Atkins running the point and no true four.

Maybe he just had enough. As I had said before, I had not yet really made up my mind about Rudy T. and the Lakers, I thought he needed more time. Apparently he did not. That likely will make some Laker fans happy, but I’m not sure what it means for the team long term (George Karl, you should have waited another couple of weeks). Feel free to post your thoughts.

More as I hear/learn anything.

Update #1: I have yet to turn on a radio since this news came down, but I can already hear how this is going to play out nationwide (and locally) — Kobe ran off another coach. I’m not on the inside of the Laker locker room, but neither are the people who will spout this (and that includes talk show hosts who attend some Laker games, talk to some players after the games then think they know this team well). From where I sit, I just don’t see it. Rudy T.’s issues seemed to have little to do with Kobe and more to do with his ability to communicate with the current crop of young NBA players — something that has changed since his powerhouse teams of the 1990s. That said, Kobe will get the blame.

Update #2: This is the official statement from Laker spokesma Jon Black, via SI.com:

“He’s considering several options and resigning is one of them. That decision has not been made. There won’t be an announcement tonight. He won’t coach tonight because he’s not feeling well. This has nothing to do with cancer.”

“It’s health-related,” Black said about Tomjanovich’s absence. “He loves the team and the team loves him.”

I hope it is not cancer related and can only wish Rudy t. the best in terms of health.

Update #3: No decision will be announced until Wednesday, at the earliest.