Written by Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
The New York Knicks and Phil Jackson have finally gotten their guy, as Derek Fisher officially became head coach of the team Tuesday. Fisher, who played nine seasons with Jackson, winning five NBA titles in the process, will be the 26th head coach in the history of the franchise.
The Knicks did not wait long to land Fisher, who had not yet even officially announced his retirement before the Knicks began ramping up their pursuit of the 18-year veteran. The deal that Fisher and the Knicks agreed to is a five-year, $25 million pact. It is worth noting that Fisher, who earned over $63 million over his playing career, earned $5 million in a season only four out of the 18 years he played.
While many people will cite Fisher’s inexperience as a coach as a reason for this being a poor hire, Fisher, in reality, is the perfect fit for the direction this team is heading in. Jackson was adamant about finding a head coaching replacement that shared his philosophies and fit a very specific criterion, but he found it in Fisher.
People will poke holes in this kind of thinking, saying a person with experience can only succeed in New York and Jackson pigeonholed the search too much. But, this should be viewed as a positive thing. The fact Jackson is attempting to build some continuity and cohesion from the top down in the organization is a refreshing thing to see. Too often the Knicks have been a media circus, with the views of the people at the top of the organization not meshing the ones on the court. It caused fissures throughout the organization, leading to the out of control circus that has turned a once storied franchise into the butt of plenty of jokes and for the most part a laughing stock.
After such a disappointing 2013-2014 season, expectations should be tempered for Fisher and the Knicks heading into next season. This could lead to unexpected positive results, much like other first-year coaches such as Mark Jackson, Jeff Hornacek and Jason Kidd have experienced recently. If Fisher can lead the Knicks to a season like Kidd led the Nets to last year, or Hornacek led with the Suns, it should be considered a great success.
The first step Fisher and Jackson will have to take is filling out the remainder of the coaching staff. When Jackson fired Mike Woodson, he sent his whole coaching staff packing. Much like with the head coach, the assistants will have to be triangle offense disciples so everything is consistent throughout the staff. Kurt Rambis has been confirmed as one of the assistants, with Bill Cartwright interviewing for a position. Former Jackson players Luke Walton and Rick Fox have also been mentioned as possible options on the bench, along with ex-Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons, ex-Bulls player Ron Harper and 18-year NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse.
It will be a long process for Fisher and the Knicks, but he sounded confident and ready to go in his introductory press conference. He is an intelligent person with loads of basketball experience. The championship rings he has back that up. He also has a luxury not many rookie head coaches have in being friends with and having a mentor with the stature and experience of Jackson. There aren’t many people better to learn basketball from. The foundation is being built in a constructive way, it is now time for Fisher to learn the ins and outs of coaching and begin shaping a winning roster alongside Jackson and the rest of his coaching staff and front office.