After several weeks of speculation, the New York Knicks are reportedly set to name Derek Fisher as their head coach in the first major move under new team president and former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson.
According to Yahoo Sports, the deal is worth $25 million over five years. The Knicks have scheduled a press conference Tuesday morning to announce Fisher as the head coach.
Fisher, 39, played nine seasons for Jackson with Lakers. The two combined to win five NBA championships. Fisher replaces Mike Woodson, who was fired in April. Fisher is the Knicks’ ninth head coach in the past 10 years.
A former head of the NBA players’ union, Fisher has a strong reputation for being a locker-room leader. The 18-year veteran was a fan favorite in Los Angeles for several seasons, and had successful stints with the Golden State Warriors and Utah Jazz, and he briefly played with the Dallas Mavericks. In his last three seasons, he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
As the third-youngest head coach, Fisher’s appointment is likely to be followed by the addition of notable assistant coaches who bring a great deal of experience. Jackson has a history of finding some of the sharpest minds in basketball to assist him with the Bulls and Lakers. Jackson is also expected to serve as a coaching mentor to Fisher.
Jackson, 68, was a leading candidate to replace Mike Brown as the Lakers head coach in 2012, but Los Angeles chose to hire Mike D’Antoni within days of contacting Jackson. The Lakers currently have a head coach vacancy, and there were multiple reports that Fisher was a candidate for the position.
Much like Jason Kidd, who was hired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets in 2013, Fisher is a point guard who will go straight from retirement to head coaching, and in the top media market in the nation.
Fisher may have a great deal of work ahead of him. The Knicks struggled in 2013-2014 to a 37-45 record, despite having one of the best scorers in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony. The All-Star forward may choose to move on from the Knicks this summer as a free agent. The Knicks don’t have a first-round draft pick in what is expected to be the deepest class in quite some time.
The Knicks have not won a title since the 1972-1973 season, but with Jackson as president, there are rising expectations that the former Knicks forward can turn the team’s fortunes around.
Fisher appears to be the safe and reasonable choice, mainly due to his strong relationship with Jackson. A head coach with extensive experience may have had trouble adjusting to Jackson’s philosophy. With Fisher, the Knicks have a coach who almost certainly will have no conflicts with the direction of the organization.
A possible criticism of the move is that Fisher has neither experience nor previous ties to New York City or the Knicks. Many organizations choose to hire a head coach who was a former player for the team or a player who grew up in the area.
However, the Knicks remain a team in transition and can afford to take a chance on an upstart coach. The team may be years away from being a legitimate contender for an NBA title. Providing Fisher with the opportunity to grow into the position might be a sensible decision as the team tries to maneuver cap space to land a star free agent like Kevin Love in 2015.