Earlier Friday morning, the New York Knicks decided to part ways with second-year head coach, Derek Fisher. While Fisher’s job security seemed tenuous, it is surprising to see him let go so early in his coaching career. Last season was his first as a head coach after retiring as a player, and the Knicks hobbled to a 17-65 record.
Fisher’s overall head coaching record is an underwhelming 40-96, though the Knicks are much better this year, currently at 23-31. Also, last season was difficult for the team as Carmelo Anthony shut his season down after the All-Star game and Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the trade deadline. The move to fire Fisher seems premature, but is it?
In a statement, Knicks President Phil Jackson said, “Some of the onus is on the players. It’s a lot easier to fire a coach than 15 players.”
Such a belief is often true, but usually pertains to coaches who have been with a team for a number of years and are not able to succeed due to lack of resources. And they do not pertain to teams that have six more wins than the previous year, in only 54 games. If Jackson truly believed the players had more to do with the team’s sub-.500 record than the coach, he would have given Fisher more time.
However, Fisher has exposed his lack of coaching acumen on several occasions. In a previous article, I had suggested Fisher’s goals were not aligned with the rest of his team when he responded to whether missing the playoffs would disappoint him, “No. … Disappointed in what? … we have to be reasonable about who we are and where we are and accept what is and not get caught up in what we should be and allow other people to define what our success is.”
Additionally, in response to whether or not Porzingis was ready to be featured to close games, Fisher replied, “We don’t run plays.” It was implied that the team has several capable players, so no one player will have his number called down the stretch. However, would it not seem like a good idea to draw up a play to get a quality final possession rather than just let the players make the decision on their own? That is coaching!
It honestly seems like Fisher is not currently cut out for head coaching responsibilities. He was very successful as a player under Jackson and, after more experience, may become a good NBA head coach some day.
But for the Knicks in 2016, the decision to part ways is the right one. This team has a strong core with Anthony finally evolving into an all-around player, Porzingis primed for super-stardom, and Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Lance Thomas, Langston Galloway and Derrick Williams all quality role players. A strong head coach is just what hey need to reach the playoffs and beyond.
So rather than be complacent with mediocrity, as they have in the past, the Knicks are being proactive: something is not working, so they are going to fix it. It is also encouraging to see Jackson make the correct business decision without regard to his close personal relationship with Fisher. Jackson has shown that he is motivated to build a championship team in New York and is willing to do whatever it takes.
The Knicks finally have a future to look forward to.