It’s not going to take just a couple of little tweaks to make the New York Knicks contenders again. The roster needs a lot of work, the organizational culture needs to change.
Phil Jackson has hired Derek Fisher to be his coach and help usher in that change, something that was made and Fisher’s introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden Tuesday. Fisher reportedly got a five-year, $25 million deal.
But is Fisher — a guy with no head coaching experience, who was still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder a couple weeks ago — the right guy to help spearhead that change with Jackson? Fisher is confident he is. Very confident.
“There will be a lot of talk about my inexperience as a head coach, and that is obviously factually true,” Fisher said. “I have never been a head coach in the NBA or in college or in high school — but I am experienced. Basketball is a game that I am experienced in. Playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete and that is being a champion. That I have experience in. And that’s the experience I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization.”
It’s something the Knicks have not experienced for more than 40 years as an organization. That is why Jackson was brought in by owner James Dolan at the hefty price tag of $12 million a year, it’s why Jackson was given real power.
Jackson has talked about changing the culture at Madison Square Garden and Fisher echoed that sentiment. He said the bar needs to be set at a championship level.
“That is who we will become, that is who we are,” Fisher said. “It is here, it exists here, Phil experienced it as a player almost 40 years ago… and we know without a doubt we know what that is, what it means how to create that, how to live in that on a daily basis. I’m excited about this.”
Jackson said he had a feeling Fisher wanted to go this way based on conversations previous summers, and once hey started talking things progressed quickly.
Jackson mentioned Fisher a couple weeks ago at a press conference as a “person of interest” but Fisher was still playing for the Thunder at that time. That tampering earned Phil Jackson a $25,000 fine — and if you don’t think Jackson knew the fine was coming when he said it but he was willing to pay the price to get the message sent, you haven’t watched Jackson over the years. He is careful about what he says publicly, these kinds of things accidentally.
Jackson tried to dispel the idea Fisher would simply be a proxy coach for him, saying that a younger coach who could relate to the players was needed. The players don’t exactly listen to the Grateful Dead like in his day, Jackson noted.
“Obviously Derek’s in a bit of a learning process, but we think his experience the last three or four years has been one of more assistant coach/player role and he’s learned under some of the best coaches: Don Nelson, Jerry Sloan, and the latest in Scotty Brooks,” Jackson said, leaving himself and his 11 rings off that list.
Fisher said yes, you can expect to see the triangle in New York.
“I love the triangle system,” Fisher said. “I believe with the roster we have we can utilize it to be more efficient, more effective, to give ourselves a chance to play better defense by getting higher percentage shots, so I believe in the system.”
Carmelo Anthony would fit well in the triangle system, getting the ball at the elbow or spacing the floor on the wings at times. He’s the kind of elite scorer the offense needs (providing he is willing to move the ball in it).
Anthony can and is expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer, he can choose to re-sign with the Knicks or not. Jackson and GM Steve Mills are going to meet with Anthony in the coming days, according to Jackson. Even if ‘Melo does opt out he could re-sign with the Knicks. But mostly Fisher and Jackson dodged the question about the future with Anthony.
Fisher said he did have very informal contact with the Lakers but never seemed to be seriously considered, which is why he was surprised the Lakers released a statement saying they were not going to pursue him. But that flirtation was never serious, the Lakers are focused on getting an experienced coach.
Jackson hired Fisher and went another direction, but Fisher thinks he has the experience for this job. Fisher was never the best athlete, the tallest, the fastest guy on the court but he played 18 NBA seasons in part because of a high basketball IQ.
“(His past basketball experiences) all provide an experience for me that I look forward to sharing with our players, and helping us re-establish the championship culture that exists in the DNA of this organization and this city,” Fisher said