On June 10th, 2014 Derek Fisher was hired as the new head coach by President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson. The five time NBA champion under Jackson’s coaching with the Los Angeles Lakers was given an extremely tough situation to coach as he was thrown in the deep end to a team which during his first year would undergo a massive rebuild.
Fisher only got to coach Carmelo Anthony for 40 games, Amar’e Stoudemire for 36 games, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith for 24 games while never even getting the chance to coach Raymond Felton or Tyson Chandler. Those were the cornerstones of the 2013-14 Knicks that reached 37 wins and just barely missed the playoffs.
Anthony missed half the season with surgery, while Stoudemire was waived, and all the others were traded for what seemed to be in the benefit to the teams New York traded with. In the end, Fisher and the Knicks finished with a franchise low, 17 wins.
New York’s roster was barren, for example look at the starting five for a game against the Indiana Pacers on April 8 2015: Shane Larkin, Langston Galloway, Lance Thomas, Lou Amundson, Andrea Bargnani. Some can argue that maybe one or two of these players are starting quality, but to a contender this is a group of third string players.
Of the 17 wins, seven came after the All-Star break, meaning they did it without Anthony leading the way. This can be attributed to nothing but good coaching, chemistry, and effort. Fisher is responsible for the big lift in production by this unit and that should prove that he is worthy of his job. When the Knicks received the fourth pick in the draft it was not because of Fisher, but because of bad luck. He should not be blamed because he wanted to win two games in the end. In fact, he should be praised for it.
Those two wins, although took New York back in chances for landing a higher pick behind the Minnesota Timberwolves, were a huge look into the future. It showed not only the fans that the group constructed had hope and chemistry but it showed the free agents we had that our coaching, players, and system can lead us to more wins and a more promising system. With Anthony back and New York’s splashes in free agency the Knicks are back in the game for being a .500 team.
However, people are still very doubtful of Fisher’s ability to coach. Well, it is understandable why one might be upset but there are a multitude of reasons why he should keep the job above some candidates like Tom Thibedeau and Mark Jackson. First, although some may think his transition from player to coach was too abrupt for players to respect him, remember that he was elected president of the National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA), so he was even as a player regarded to as a leader.
Second, his offensive system of choice, the triangle, is a priority as he had excelled in running it as a Point Guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. The only other relatable coach is Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors who ran the same offense under Phil Jackson’s Bulls in the Michael Jordan era. Why would we give up on the triangle after so much success? Why would we not trust in Phil Jackson’s decision to give him the job?
Neither Tom Thibodeau nor Mark Jackson are familiar with the Triangle. Thibodeau’s relationship to the Bull’s staff has been claimed to be “rocky” for years prior to his dismissal. He is known to be a defensive oriented coach and speculated to have poor offensive sets. Maybe he is destined to be an elite defensive assistant coach to be alongside a more well-rounded coach who is great at drawing up plays on both ends of the floor. This is probably impossible for the Knicks, since most teams will want him to be a head coach.
Mark Jackson was fired from his head coaching job last year for failing to improve his staff. The part-owner of the Warriors, Joe Lacob, told him to bring in the best staff regardless of cost. Jackson replied by saying that his staff was, in fact, the best. When the Warriors fired Jackson and hired Steve Kerr their record spiked up from 51-31 in 2013-14 to 67-15 in 2014-15. In those two seasons most of the stars of the most recent Finals victory remained including Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. It’s amazing what mainly behind the scenes changes did for the Warriors. After a sudden improvement like that just because of the firing of Jackson, are fans still sure that they would want him over the triangle specialist?
If all that still does not convince you that Derek Fisher is the Knick’s right guy, there is a wildcard factor that could in fact come into play because of him. The 2013-14 Oklahoma City Thunder finished with a 59-23 record, which was the second best in the Western Conference, with Derek Fisher being the team captain in his final year as a player. That is much better than what they did this year at 45-37. Brian Keefe, another member on the New York staff, was an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder for five years and is claimed to be “(Kevin) Durant’s guy” as per a league source. Durant will be a free agent next year, and with Derek Fisher, his former ( and very successful) team captain, and Brian Keefe, claimed to be very close with Durant, on the staff the chances of landing the huge superstar next year are greater. I don’t want to raise hope for Knick falsely but…….
… there definitely is a chance.