SBD/June 10, 2014/Franchises

Phil Jackson Makes First Impact Hire As Knicks President, Taps Derek Fisher As Coach

Fisher will go straight from his playing days to the head coach of the Knicks
Thunder G Derek Fisher yesterday "reached a five-year deal" with Knicks President Phil Jackson to "become the next head coach" of the franchise, according to Frank Isola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The Knicks this morning introduced Fisher at a press conference, marking the "first significant hire of the Jackson administration." Warriors coach Steve Kerr was Jackson’s "first choice," but Kerr had "reservations about working under" Knicks Owner James Dolan. It also "appears as if Dolan was not thrilled with the idea of hiring Kerr." Dolan has a "better history with Fisher," as he and the former NBPA President "sat on opposite sides of the negotiating table during the NBA lockout three years ago and forged a relationship." Despite Fisher’s "inexperience, he fulfills several requirements that Jackson ... has for his head coach." Fisher played under Jackson in L.A. where they "won five titles together." Fisher also "knows the triangle offense and won’t feel threatened by having Jackson mentor him and occasionally be on the court working alongside him" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10). In N.Y., Marc Berman notes one "concern was whether Fisher would want to move" to N.Y. while his "four young kids" live in L.A. Fisher is an Arkansas native, but recently said N.Y. "grew on him." Fisher "spent weeks at a time" in N.Y. during the '11 lockout, and one of his daughters also was "suffering from a rare eye disease six years ago and traveled often to New York to see a top eye specialist" (N.Y. POST, 6/10).

TAKING A GAMBLE? In N.Y., Scott Cacciola writes choosing Fisher can "easily be perceived as a gamble by Jackson, but he has always been clear about his preference to hire a young coach whom he could mentor," and Fisher "fits the bill" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/10). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote this is Jackson's "chance to prove he can build a team, and build a coach along with it." But as someone who has "never done this before, Fisher still represents a major gamble" (ESPNNY.com, 6/9). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes hiring Fisher will "get the Knicks a minor victory" during his introductory press conference, as he can "handle himself in front of a bank of microphones." But "nobody can guarantee Knicks fans, not even Jackson, that there will be bigger, more important wins on the Garden’s floor in the future because Derek Fisher is now the coach" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10).

GIVING HIM ROOM TO GROW: ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said Fisher is "going to fall back a lot onto how Phil Jackson sees the game," and he'll teach it as such." But he added Jackson "will be wise enough to allow him room to develop and grow" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/9). NBA TV's Sam Mitchell said of Jackson, “It’s not that he didn’t want a guy with experience. He wants a guy that knows him, that knows his system, that’s played for him, that he’s comfortable with" ("NBA Gametime," NBA TV, 6/9). ESPN's Adnan Virk said, "Fisher's signing by the Knicks is at the very least encouraging and by and large will be viewed as a cagey move from Phil Jackson" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/10). But in N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "You have to believe Jackson didn’t hire Derek Fisher because he wanted to hire an independent basketball thinker." From the start, Jackson "has been perfectly frank about that." Fisher will "almost certainly be a wholly moldable clump of coaching clay that Jackson can work with, which means Jackson can dabble in what he knows best without actually having to work practices and games across the grueling NBA season" (N.Y. POST, 6/10). ESPN’s Mike Golic said of Fisher, “He’s like a pawn in this one, is he not? He’s coming in as a head coach, but he’s going to take his direction from Phil Jackson" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 6/10).

SELLING POINT
: In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes, "This is why Dolan brought Jackson here, at a premium price: to sell the Aura of Phil. Gravitas enables you to stumble and not get crushed for it." The Knicks are "likely to be awful again next season -- with or without Carmelo Anthony -- but Phil Jackson has to sell the notion that he has everything under control" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/10). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "So we have a team president who has never been a team president. ... We have a coach who never coached. And we have front office underbosses like Steve Mills and Allan Houston, whose main qualifications seem to be that Dolan likes having them around" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/10).
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