After being jilted by his first choice, New York Knicks Team President Phil Jackson got his man in ex-Oklahoma City point guard Derek Fisher. With self-imposed experience requirements, Jackson painted himself in a corner as far his choices were concerned. He did land his second option, which might turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
When Jackson first took over the reigns of the New York Knicks, he made two things perfectly clear. First, he was not going to coach, and second, he was going to select a coach who was familiar with the triangle offense and someone he could mold in his own image. That sounds like a promising proposition considering that Jackson is thought of as one of the most successful leaders in professional sports history, not just basketball.
Fisher reportedly signed a five-year deal to lead the Knicks. Is he worth it? Phil believes so. Besides, the new team president could not afford to let another potential coach slip away the way his old mentee, Steve Kerr, did last month.
Having observed Fisher from afar, I believe Fisher has all of the tools to be a successful basketball head coach. He was like a head coach on the floor as a point guard when he led his respective teams. He is well respected and liked by everybody throughout the league. And he is truly battle-tested.
He was an integral member of five NBA championship squads. He was one of the calming influences in the locker room during the Kobe-Shaq era in Los Angeles, keeping those two at bay on their way to three consecutive championships. The way he helped keep those two massive alpha-male egos fixed on the big prize is page one of Phil Jackson’s book. However, the way he handled the situation with his daughter’s near fatal illness is stuff that they make Hallmark movies about. He truly earned everybody’s respect during that period of his remarkable career.
The obvious knock on Fisher as far as being appointed a head coach at this juncture of his career is that he has no experience at that job. Well, that did not hurt Mark Jackson or Jason Kidd when they took their respective head coaching positions. Mike Dunleavy took over the Los Angeles Lakers as a novice head coach right after he retired from playing and they won 58 games. Of course he had one Ervin “Magic” Johnson leading that team on the floor, so that helped his cause. So there have been recent examples of success without job experience.
Experience or no experience, Fisher has his work cut out for him. First Fisher and Jackson must convince Carmelo Anthony to stay with the organization. It is going to be a rebuilding season whether he stays or not, but it is going to be a tougher one if Melo opts out of his contract. Phil has to get him more versatile players in order for them to run the triangle offense. Jackson did bring in Lamar Odom. But Lord knows what he has left in the tank physically and mentally.
Yes, Fisher has his work cut out for him. Jackson will help him with the Xs and Os and game situations. But it will be Fisher’s ability to communicate and relate with his players that will propel him to success. Brother Fisher I wish you the best because you are going to need it and you are a top-shelf individual.