Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Knicks' hiring of Fisher a step in right direction

Derek Fisher and Phil Jackson could be very effective. (ESPN)
After an extended wait, one long enough to allow Derek Fisher's Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the Western Conference finals before losing, new Knicks president Phil Jackson finally has his man as head coach. It may not have been his first choice, current Warriors coach Steve Kerr, but Fisher's hiring is still a positive step for the franchise.

The 26th head coach of the Knicks, Fisher is the first of the past eight with no previous head coaching experience after 14 seasons of cycling through retread coaches like Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Mike D'Antoni and Mike Woodson. While Wilkens and Brown are Hall of Fame coaches, neither was able to get the Knicks over .500 in their short stints on the bench.

Jeff Van Gundy was the last Knicks head coach to obtain his first head coaching job with the franchise, and perhaps not coincidentally, he was also the longer tenured since Red Holzman, who lasted 11 seasons from 1967-1977. Van Gundy coached the Knicks for six seasons and had a .590 win percentage, third highest in franchise history behind Holzman and fellow legend Pat Riley.

By bringing a fresh face into the organization as the team's coach, Jackson's hiring of Fisher will allow the former championship point guard to develop into the role and grow with his players, much like Jason Kidd did with the Brooklyn Nets this season. Like Fisher, Kidd went right from playing into coaching and experienced noticeable growth as a head coach as the season went on.

Knicks' coaches since 2001 have tried to fit the roster in place to their coaching tendencies, while Fisher will be able to mold his own style around the talent on the court instead. That style should be well-respected by his players thanks to Fisher's five championship rings as a player and the team will help Fisher grow as much as he will help them.

Fisher also developed respect from his younger teammates during his later seasons, much like Kidd did with the Knicks during the 2012-13 season. New York's chemistry fell apart when Kidd left to coach the Nets before this season and Fisher may be able to help fill that void, albeit not on the court.

The next question for the Knicks surrounds the future of Carmelo Anthony, which will only heat up now the coaching position has been filled. Fisher's experience with Lakers star Kobe Bryant and, more recently, Thunder star Kevin Durant, provides hope that not only can Fisher be key to retaining 'Melo, but also help him develop into the unselfish player that shows up from time to time, but only in flashes.

Regardless of what happens with Anthony, the Knicks made a very progressive move hiring Fisher. His potential as a leader, the lack of success the team has had with recent retread coaches in the 21st century and Van Gundy's enjoyable run as a fresh-faced head coach are all reasons for optimism surrounding the Knicks this season. Now if they could just make a few tweaks to
that roster...

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