Phil Jackson picked Derek Fisher to be the Knicks coach because he could sell the vision. This was a locker room leader, a former players’ union president, a guy respected around the league who the Knicks players would listen to — he could sell the culture change needed. And he could sell the triangle offense.
Sell it, sure, but how well does he know it?
Fisher played in the triangle for years, but some of the current Knicks’ players are not sold on his Xs and Os knowledge, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.
According to a source, there’s a growing sense among some players in the locker room Fisher is viewed more as a “preacher’’ and “motivator’’ than an expert in-game tactician or Xs-and-Os master….
According to the source, Fisher’s assistant coaches, including Brian Keefe, Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons, are more versed in the strategic concepts. The source said Carmelo Anthony has come to Fisher recently to lobby for rookie Kristaps Porzingis to be more involved in the offense late in games to take the burden off him. Indeed, Porzingis had plays run for him down the stretch in Boston on Sunday.
First, is this a surprise? Did anyone expect Fisher to be Rick Carlisle?
Second, it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of coaches in NBA history who were motivators or guys who could inspire first, then were Xs and Os guys second. That list starts with Phil Jackson himself, who was the best motivator and team builder the game has ever seen, but had Tex Winter — the inventor of the triangle offense — on the sidelines with him for a reason.
If you can get guys to buy into the system, it doesn’t matter if you are the master of that system, so long as someone on your staff is that guy. Jason Kidd is considered this kind of coach in Milwaukee, and there are others. Fisher and Kidd know the game, but they know people better. And in the NBA that’s a valuable skill.
Does Fisher lean on his veterans more than he should sometimes? Sure. So does every other NBA coach trying to win games now.
If the Knicks were winning more, this conversation would not be happening. But have a few losses in New York and the vultures always come out.