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Hiring Derek Fisher was smart roll of dice by Phil Jackson

Jun 10, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT

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Knicks fans were going to be skeptical no matter who was hired to coach their team. In part because they’re New Yorkers and are skeptical of everything. In part it was because there was always the inkling of hope the $12 million a year Phil Jackson is getting paid meant he was going to coach New York,  too.

That was never going to happen, Jackson is done behind the bench. He said that again on Tuesday at Derek Fisher’s introductory press conference.

What Jackson is really getting $12 million a year to do is change the culture of the Knicks — this was an organization focused too much on right now, not on patience and not on sacrifice. Draft picks were moved for quick fixes, guys that got on the court and aged quickly. Jackson needed someone who could preach the triangle and ball movement, who could sell the team-first concept. Jackson is trying to change the Knicks culture in basketball operations top to bottom.

Which is where Derek Fisher is a good hire as coach in New York.

Yes, Fisher is a gamble, but a smart one to take. More than any other quality Jackson needed someone with the same philosophies, someone he fully trusted to be his extension on the court. Jackson was never coming down to the sidelines, but he needed someone who understood and could be evangelical about his philosophies. Fisher has bought into what Phil Jackson is selling, and now it is his turn to sell them on a team-first system, on sharing, moving off the ball — you know, like those two teams still playing do.

Fisher commands respect and can lead — he can walk into that room and talk about sacrificing parts of your game to make the team better. He can talk about playing within the system. He can cite examples from Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Durant and a host of other great players. He can show you the rings that it brings.

This gambe works whatever Carmelo Anthony decides to do next season. If he stays, to win the Knicks need Anthony to sacrifice parts of his game — to move the ball quickly and not have it stick, to be a good defender. Fisher knows about that. He can point to Kobe and others when he uses examples. If Anthony decides to bolt for wherever, Fisher can be part rebuilding the structures of this team on the court into a triangle unit.

Fisher can lead. They will put assistant coaches around him who can help with the Xs and Os, who can show Fisher how to properly set up a film session or the host of other little details that come with being an NBA coach. What Fisher can do is get people to listen to him and follow him.

Can Fisher coach? We will find out. If not he can be replaced in a couple years with someone who can. The money he is paid — $5 years, $25 million — can be shocking but it’s a pittance for the Knicks organization. The Knicks print money, spending it like this doesn’t matter to them like it does to 29 other teams.

What Fisher can do is lead. What Fisher does is buy into everything Phil Jackson is selling. He can get the players to buy in.

He can start to change the culture of the Knicks on the court.

And that is what Phil Jackson needed more than anything else.

That is why Derek Fisher was a good hire.

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  1. chicagosports2014 - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:07 AM

    So which young NY coach win ring 1st?

    👍 Knicks
    👎 Nets

    • turnmymicup - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:24 AM


  2. mnsadsportsfan - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    You will see neither both kidd and fisher will be fired before winning a ring.

    • chicagosports2014 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM

      Phil will try to approach Fisher like Riley did Spoestra.

    • duhwighthoward - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:47 AM

      “neither both will be”? Is this some sort of trick?

  3. alexb1234 - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:26 AM

    Great article, excellent points….even if melo leaves the Knicks still have the ability to reset after this season….Fisher I think is a good hire and he will be a better coach then Kerr because players will respect Fisher’s opinion more then Kerr’s opinion. In the NBA just getting the players to buy in and actually listen to the coach is 80% of the battle.

    • unxpexted1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      I agree, i think Fish commands respect that Kerr doesn’t and that’s a start. Basically what Marc Jackson did in GSW. People complain about his X and O’s but the players bought into him.

      • nykfanwakemeupin2015 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        Agree with both of you. Kerr was soft but Fish can handle the NYC pressure

  4. turnmymicup - Jun 10, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    I don’t think the Knicks are ready for the triangle offense. Don’t get me wrong Melo is one of the best in the league. I just don’t think its the right system for him to succeed. A lot of ppl are going to say “well MJ and Kobe were able to do it”. Big difference in their styles of play.

    • duhwighthoward - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM

      Great argument. I agree with each of your points.


      You merely stated an opinion without giving a single reason for it. You must be a product of the new American education system which keeps allowing kids to advance even though they fail. Wouldn’t want to damage your self-esteem, would we?

      • adoombray - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:03 AM

        that was totally uncalled for, and you sound like my drunk uncle at thanksgiving who doesn’t know when to shutup about his politics.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      Their style of play is what made them miss the playoffs last year. It has to change.

      • mogogo1 - Jun 11, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        13 year veterans seldom change much about their games. You either adapt the system to the players you have or you get new players for your system. Expecting Amare to start playing tough D or Melo to dish the ball a lot is a bad bet.

  5. jzone954 - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:15 AM

    Well do understand that Fish was the second option, it’s not like he was Phil’s guy all along. But I mean eventually this could work out for the Knicks. As in be competitive. Wonder what Melo is going to do. I really believe Phil will end up convincing Kobe to come to NY once ed done with LA for one last push at 38, honestly I do.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      After watching the once great Black Mamba limp around the court in the 2015/16 NBA season…

      you’ll change your mind about Phil or anyone else wanting him for what would be his 21st NBA season… in the 2016/17 season

  6. loubearkane - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:26 AM

    You have to start some where maybe bringing in the Triangle will make Amare more useful. The one proven thing about the Triangle is you don’t need a great PG which is great for the Knicks

  7. campcouch - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:33 AM

    I wonder how they know a guy commands respect.

  8. bknowledge - Jun 10, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Couldn’t this have been a 3 year deal?

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:43 PM


      Yes, that was possible.

      But ANY coach knows that the Knicks will suck this next season and are still in cap hell, even if Melo leaves.

      Then, the season after that they have to HOPE they’re able to land a good FA and get lucky in the draft.

      Odds are they’ll not be good two seasons from now.

      So that 3 yr deal becomes basically a one year deal for the coach as he’s guaranteed to suck his first two years…

  9. floridascuba1 - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    If fisher commands respect, what respect did he give Cuban. Fisher is a putz

  10. ProBasketballPundit - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    So uh… Derek Fisher is retired? Shouldn’t there have been an announcement or something?

  11. rajbais - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    Smart on Fisher too. He’s earning at least 3.5 times more than he did as a backup point guard to the Thunder.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:45 PM

      OVER $63 million as a player…

      Now at minimum, $25 million as a coach…

      Seems a lock to earn $100 million in his career in basketball… only $11.7 million and change away on either future coaching contracts or TV work…

      Not bad Fish…

      • adoombray - Jun 10, 2014 at 5:31 PM

        it’s just like Steve Nash and the Lakers except Nash gets to make reality TV videos and pout and Fish has to actually coach

  12. wallabear - Jun 10, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Jason Kidd and Derek FIsher are 2nd-string players. Why is Phil Jackson afraid to coach again? He is afraid of failure? If so, then he ought to just retire. Hiring Fisher doesn’t change a thing. ‘Melo will soon be gone, so then what?

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM

      you’re online wallabear…

      look up Phil’s health, his legs, the operations he’s had…

      traveling during the season would be a bit much…

      he’s a big man who is approaching 70 yrs old an the season and travel is a grind…

      That is why Phil is NOT coaching again…

      • mazblast - Jun 10, 2014 at 6:13 PM

        That, and an ego even bigger than him. Zen Master can’t hack the idea of coaching a losing team, which the Knicks will undoubtedly be this year and for several years.

        As for this “patience” stuff, when did Phil ever actually build a team? He always came into situations involving a superstar that was just a bit away from being a top contender.

  13. phillyguyindc - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:10 PM

    Meh. Since Phil absoolutely had to have a triangle guy (for some reason), and the only other viable option was Tyronn Lue, then I guess it’s a good gamble. I don’t blame fisher one bit for taking the job but I would think more jobs will be available in the future with a better chance at success. They won’t win much this year and if Melo leaves, then there will be another horrible year. Two horrible seasons in a row seems to be the limit for a knicks coach to get fired (which is why Fisher probably smartly demanded 5 years). Kidd was getting blasted just a few months into this season.

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 10, 2014 at 1:49 PM


      The Triangle was the system that won 11 of the last 23 NBA championships…

      ALL 11 of those championships were won by Phil running the Triangle.

      And you say “for some reason” he had to have a triangle person…

      • phillyguyindc - Jun 10, 2014 at 2:35 PM

        Does anyone else run the triangle?…If it was some infallable system more people would run it.

        I wonder if it had anything to do with having the greatest player of ever….

        Maybe Raymond Felton will flourish in the triangle hahahaha

  14. mazblast - Jun 10, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    I get the feeling that if Phil had hired a street bum to coach the Knicks, this writer would call it “a smart roll of the dice”, just because it’s Phil and the Zen Master still has some writers lapping up anything he dishes out of any orifice.

  15. klownboy - Jun 10, 2014 at 11:07 PM

    I would have loved Mark Jackson to coach my Knicks, but Derek Fisher was not a bad Plan B…

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