The Fisher King: Anyone Know If He Can Coach?
He has been a peacemaker, managing to prevent Kobe Bryant and Shaquille ONeal from killing each other long enough to win three NBA championships. He has been a union leader, serving as president of the National Basketball Players Association. He has been a smooth operator, hitting a legendary playoff shot with point-four left on the clock.
But Derek Fisher never has coached a team in his life, just as Steve Kerr never has coached a team in his life, which begs a question: Why are they being paid a collective $50 million when there is no track record upon which to judge their potential success?
Fisher agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal with the New York Knicks, assuring that Phil Jackson wont be rejected by two of his pet coaching projects after Kerr took the Golden State job for the same price. But while Jackson now can walk the Manhattan streets without being screamed at for administrative inertia at least for the moment whats happening with that franchise still doesnt create any sense of optimism. Maybe Fisher will be the next Doc Rivers, who had no coaching experience before launching a Hall of Fame career on the NBA sidelines. Or maybe hell be devoured by New York, recalling how a kid from Arkansas was too intimidated to leave his Midtown hotel room when first visiting there with the Lakers.
``It grew on me, Fisher said.
It also could wear on him, regardless of whether Carmelo Anthony stays or uses his opt-out clause next month to sign with the Chicago Bulls or Houston Rockets. If Anthony stays, Fisher becomes the conduit challenged to channel Jacksons triangle offense and defensive mandates into the brainwaves of a selfish, ball hoggish scorer. If Anthony leaves, is there any certainty Fisher will have prime talent to coach? Kevin Love doesnt want to play in New York. Kevin Durant doesnt want to play in New York in 2016. The Knicks are paralyzed by fat contracts this season and have no No. 1 draft pick later this month.
Is Fisher sure he doesnt want to spend more time with the family after retiring as a player just days ago?
``In the last maybe decade or so, I've really felt like my purpose in life, my calling so to speak, was to be in a leadership position or some position of impact on other people, he said. ``Coaching allows me to positively impact other peoples lives, to help people find success when they havent or have, working together for common goal. Thats what I did for 33 years as a player, starting with basketball at age 6. Theres a love for helping other people, where you can positively impact others and work to reach a common goal. That's exciting to me."
His now-former colleagues in Oklahoma City have no doubt hell succeed. ``Derek is like an older brother to me since Ive been here, Russell Westbrook said. ``He did a great job of always showing me the right path regardless of what may be going on. He always tries to tell you whats right. It may not be what you want to hear all the time, but whats right is whats right.
``Without a doubt. He's a smart guy, smart mind. He's a great motivator, great speaker and can really relate to a lot of guys and demands that respect from everybody," Durant said. ``He's a great locker-room guy. I'm sure he'll do a great job. He's unique, one-of-a-kind. The only guy I ever played with who can address the team in a way as a leader. He's able to address the team more so than anybody I played with and he backs it up on the court, too.
Said Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who is lucky general manager Sam Presti didnt fire him and hire Fisher: ``He probably is one of the best pros Ive ever been around. Hes relentless in his work and preparation. Fish has always been that way. Hes as prepared as anybody Ive ever been around. He understands other teams personnel and playbook.
Now, he becomes the bridge from Jackson to the locker room, the bridge from Madison Square Garden to an NBA championship. Hes about to realize its a much longer span than the Triborough.
Your move, Carmelo. Im betting Chicago.