Rudy T, we hardly knew thee

Santo Caruso

Poor Rudy T. Besides looking like Ukranian President Viktor Yushchenko whose face was ruined by poisoning. He just got hit but a truck carrying 3.7 million people, a monster ego and Jack Nicholson. By the time his tenure was up, he wished he was poisoned.

Let’s look at what happened.

First of all, he stepped into a bad situation. Not talent wise, because with a potential starting five of Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, the Mihm/Medvedenko combo at center and Kobe Bryant there was a great talent base to work around.

Kobe, as of last year, was forming into a brilliant all-around player, Odom has a ton of versatility, range and athleticism and Butler was a great creative complimentary small forward/guard. Lacking a true point guard, the team still should have put up close to a hundred a night.

The bad part is the egos and mood. Kobe had to realize he has trashed Shaq and spread rumors about Karl Malone (true or not) that his new teammates, already unhappy to leave one of the most exciting and unselfish players in the league (Dwayne Wade), would be quick to trust him.

Supposedly, the superstar is miserable and aloof in the locker room.

This is the leader who would lead them to the Championship? This is what Tomjanovich had to depend on during long road trips, when motivational speeches aren’t enough?

Rudy came from Houston. Houston is a sprawling “city without a suburb,” and although basketball is important, it does not compare to Los Angeles.

The Lakers are the Yankees of the NBA.

They always have the most talent, the most money, and full arenas. They also have a media beat only by the infamous New York beat writers (admittedly, the gap is big, but who does compare to the den of misery that is the Post and Times?) This was too much for a coach returning to the NBA after a year off.

He fought off cancer, alcoholism and Kermit Washington, but there is nothing like the psychological torture of having every move questioned, analyzed, and most of all criticized.

Think of a nagging girlfriend. Now imagine she had a radio show, several newspapers, and a stadium full of drunk fans being egged on by her. I don’t think I would have lasted a week.

Personally, I thought the Lakers were overachieving. As much as I like their role players, a major key is those players willingness to accept that position.

If you want to build around one superstar, he better be able to lead on and off the court, as well as handle his personal issues in a manner befitting a consummate professional. Not everyone has to be John Stockton, but Kobe never met a bridge he didn’t want to burn.

All of this added up to a terrible situation for a classy coach like Rudy T. and has forced him to end his career on a sour note.

Here’s hoping the rest of his days play to his own private melody.