NEW YORK (AP) — A year after being fired, Derek Fisher is back in NBA arenas at the TV table.
What he really wants is to be back in the coaching box.
“There’s no question I’ll be back at it at some point,” Fisher said.
In the meantime, he’s working as an analyst for TNT, and next Monday he is scheduled to call his first game involving the New York Knicks, who fired him last February after 1½ years.
The game is in Los Angeles against the Clippers, and Fisher will find a team that looks similar to when he was the coach. There are too many controversies and not enough victories, with Jeff Hornacek now fielding the incessant questions about the triangle offense that Fisher used to face.
“They’ve obviously had a tough season for multiple reasons,” Fisher said in a phone interview. “It’s never just one reason and quite frankly there’s always been too much focus on what they’re running offensively or what we were doing offensively, when that’s just one aspect of trying to be successful as a team.
“The biggest job I think for any of the people that are there is continuing to chip away at establishing winning habits and winning culture regardless of Xs and Os, and I’m sure that’s what Jeff is trying to figure out with this group, but it’s tough when there’s so many different things pulling at you.”
Fisher had just finished his playing career when Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, under whom he won five championships with the Lakers, hired him in June 2014 to be his first coach. The first season was the worst in franchise history with a 17-65 record, but the team played better early in the second season before Jackson fired Fisher with the Knicks in a 1-9 tailspin.
Fisher said he enjoyed the experience despite the results on the court and the turbulence off it.
“Things are not always great early when you’re trying to figure it all out as a team and as a coach,” he said, “and so I like the struggles and the adversities and continuing to work at trying to figure all those things out. And most importantly to me, coaching puts you in a place where you can help other people be the best versions of themselves. That’s really what leadership is about to me, is serving the needs of others.”
He began working as a studio analyst for Spectrum SportsNet’s Lakers coverage this season before his TNT duties started in February with the launch of its “Players Only” schedule, a series of Monday games in which the studio and game analysts are all former players. He enjoys providing a perspective that a commentator who never played can’t, as well as the opportunity to be on the road again seeing friends — he worked with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal last week and will again Monday — and talking to coaches and players.
The TV work could serve him well later. Steve Kerr and Doc Rivers were both analysts before becoming championship-winning coaches, so perhaps the courtside view can pay off for Fisher.
“I’ve only been at it a few weeks now, but I do think that anything that puts you in a position where you’re analyzing the game helps you,” Fisher said. “It helps you to prepare for when that becomes your full-time job as a coach.”
And he believes it will come again.
“I’ve always been most at home, most comfortable when I’m trying to figure out how to help my team win and those were thoughts I had as a player and those were the thoughts I had as a coach,” Fisher said. “So when and if that opportunity presents itself again, I’ll definitely be ready for it. I’m looking forward to it and I think the biggest thing would be what and where and when. I think that applies for everybody that is kind of waiting for and looking for that next great opportunity.”