Due to a combination of factors — poor roster construction, a rash of injuries, and the installation of a new offensive system — the Knicks got off to a 5-36 start to the season, good enough to be the worst in franchise history.
Derek Fisher as a rookie head coach was part of it, of course, and while he knows the game as well as anyone after playing as a point guard in the league for 18 seasons, he didn’t expect that players would need to be motivated by their coach in order to perform well on a nightly basis.
Fisher admitted getting his players fired up for every game is something he didn’t realize was a major requirement for an NBA head coach. Fisher was asked what has surprised him most during this trying season, in which the Knicks are off to their worst start in franchise history at 8-36 despite the three-game streak they’ll take into Saturday’s game at Charlotte.
“Probably what jumps out the most is you still have to work pretty hard to motivate and inspire guys at this level,’’ Fisher said before the Knicks outlasted the Magic, 113-106. “Something a guy who came into the league in 1996, that wasn’t required. If you weren’t self-driven and self motivated, you couldn’t get on the floor. As coach, you still have to find ways to push buttons and get guys excited about playing the game. As a player for 18 years, my brain worked that way. It’s one area that continues to evolve — find ways to help my guys be more inspired and more motivated.’’
Fisher may not have needed this external motivation as a player; he came into the league as a fringe guy who had to work extremely hard for everything he was given. But he had to have seen the way others in the league approached things, and the fact that it took them this long to figure out this aspect of the coaching game has to raise some eyebrows, if nothing else.