Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks Mistakenly Choose Derek Fisher

  • Mark Evans
After losing out on Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks wanted Derek Fisher. credit: AP

After losing out on Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks wanted Derek Fisher.
credit: AP

It is widely expected that Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks will introduce Derek Fisher as the team’s next head coach on Tuesday. Fisher’s season with the Oklahoma City Thunder recently ended in the Western Conference Finals at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, and it appeared as if Phil knew that Derek was his man after Steve Kerr surprisingly signed with the Golden State Warriors.

Fisher is seen as a winner by many. He has five championship rings, all with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his presence was valued greatly by Scott Brooks and the Thunder. As Jason Kidd, another point guard with championship experience, did this past season, Fisher will look to make the difficult transition from the floor to the bench.

The Knicks have a lot of problems, and hiring Derek Fisher doesn’t help. It was a poor decision by Phil, and New York is not getting the man that many believe they are.

Many will claim that Fisher’s ability to win on the court will help him win on the sideline.

Fisher’s five rings scream “winner.” Not many players have that kind of jewelry, and it’s an undeniable accomplishment that can never be taken away from him. It’s also a convenient way of hiding the fact that Fisher was a very average player at his best, and a mediocre one for much of his career.

When a team has five rings, it’s easy to look at the starting point guard as a major contributor. In reality, Fisher was never more than an off the ball guard just good enough to create space for the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Pau Gasol. Fisher’s three point shooting is almost solely what kept him around; he never had to really run an offense, and his defense became a huge liability against younger guards as he began to age.

And, you know what? This is all fine. You don’t need to be a great player to be a quality coach. But don’t use his skills as a player and a “winner” to justify his potential to succeed as a coach.

Next, Fisher supporters will point to his leadership as a strong trait that will help him adjust to coaching. Point guard and NBA Players Association President scream leader, right?

Well, not here. Fisher was President of the Union when his players lost a battle against the owners during the lockout, and a scandal emerged briefly after. He was voted out by his peers, and the Knicks now expect him to lead a team of those peers? As President, Fisher was certainly a leader, but there is such a thing as a bad leader.

It was just a few years ago that Fisher signed with the Dallas Mavericks, only to leave them hanging shortly after. Following an injury, he requested a release. Many believed that he would take the time to get healthy and be with his family.  Just a few months later, Fisher signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was an obvious move by Fisher to forge a path to a more talented roster with a better chance at a ring.

This was not the first time that Fisher requested a release. The Utah Jazz released Fisher after one of his children fell ill, and in a bit of an awkward manner, he ended up back with the Lakers, where he would win two more rings. I won’t question prioritizing family over basketball for a second; but when you sign with your old team that happens to be better, and it happens multiple times, it’s reasonable to be a bit suspicious.

These experiences make it tough to believe that Fisher’s supposed leadership will make him a good coach in the media whirlwind that is New York City. This is not a good team, and adversity is going to happen sooner rather than later.

It also cannot be ignored that there were much better candidates on the market. While Knicks fans hoped that having Phil Jackson in town would change things, I’m not holding my breath. Lionel Hollins and George Karl are quality coaches on the market, but instead, the Knicks looked for some fresh blood.

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting a recycled coach like Karl or Hollins. But if this is where you stand, why not hire the likes of Patrick Ewing? He is a beloved player in New York, and unlike Fisher, he has some experience as an assistant. From a distance, it seems clear that Ewing is more prepared to coach.

It appears as if the personal relationship between Fisher and Phil was a huge factor. While Phil doesn’t want to coach, he clearly wants as much control as possible. What better way to have control than to hire a former player as coach that will let you do whatever you please?

Finally, we can’t ignore the stupid amount of money that the Knicks will be paying Fisher. Yes, the coaching market appears to be out of sync; just look at Steve Kerr’s deal with the Warriors. And, of course, I’m not losing sleep over James Dolan’s wallet. He’ll be just fine.

Still, if you’re going to throw $25 million at a coach, can’t you at least throw it at a better prospect? It appeared as if the Lakers were out of the picture, and it also seemed like he didn’t want to play any longer, so exactly who were the Knicks competing with to grab Fisher? With Kerr, there was a competitive market that drove up the price, and that marker simply didn’t exist with Fisher. The Knicks were bidding against themselves.

It seems like Phil Jackson got his guy. After Kerr was no longer an option, we all kind of expected Fisher to get the job. However, there’s little reason to see this as a strong decision.

Fisher was an average at best, and mostly mediocre, role player that played a small role during a bunch of championship runs. He was also a poor Union President that left the position disgraced at the unanimous vote of his peers amidst a scandal. Combine these factors with his salary and the other coaching options available, and it’s hard to justify the hire.

Sorry, Knicks fans. Maybe things won’t change under Phil Jackson after all.


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