So, having been left at the alter once, The Zen Master is scheduled to announce an agreement with Derek Fisher to become the new coach of the Knickerbockers.
I have gone back and forth on my feelings for Jackson's insistence on a young, or even a rookie, coach. While I originally thought that, given the bright lights of NY, an experienced coach would have a better chance of success I realize now that was "safe" thinking. I am now embracing the Zen moment and I am excited to see how this plays out.
Here are my top 5 reasons that this is a good move for the Knicks:
1. No more coaching retreads. Have you noticed the dearth of original thinking in hiring coaches in the NBA. Once you have coached an NBA team you are forever on the interview list for every open spot. But what have most of them accomplished that keeps them on the evergreen list? A .500 record? "Making the playoffs"? Please! Unless you are winning championships, or at least contending in The Finals on a regular basis, what do you really have to offer. For example, Mike Dunleavy is supposedly on the Laker's list of coaching candidates. Really? Mike Dunleavy?!
Thank The Zen Master for sparing us the coaching retread treadmill. The Garden has been a disaster for too long. It is going to take fresh thinking to turn this thing around and this coaching choice is clearly that.
2. This is not a championship-caliber team, so there is time to grow into the job. Come on. Where are the Knicks going next year? And what if Melo leaves for greener pastures? Yes - Derek Fisher will make a ton of rookie mistakes, but these will not cost the Knicks a championship. He will have time to learn the ropes and earn his stripes so he will be ready when the team is reconstructed with a better chance at contending. This is a good situation. The Knicks are not a bad team, they are just not a contender. There will be plenty of Ws along the way for Fisher to build on.
3. Derek Fisher is a true leader. By all accounts Derek Fisher is a born leader. He commands the respect of the locker room. He has demonstrated leadership abilities as the President of the Players Union. He presents well and is comfortable with the media. This is a natural progression in his professional career. Bill Russell proved that you could be a player AND a coach. Moving from a player TO a coach is not that different, if you have the right attributes. By all accounts, Derek Fisher has the right stuff.
4. It will be important for the coach and the management to work together as a team. The Knicks are about to embark down a path where, over the next several years, they will not only change personnel but they will change the culture and the system they play under. This will be a bumpy ride and it will be important for the coach and the front office to be on the same page and to trust each other. This is one reason that Phil wanted someone he already had a relationship with. He knows there will be dark times ahead, and he and his coach need to have complete faith in each other. Starting with a relationship forged through winning championships is a great way to go.
5. This is as close as Phil Jackson will get to coaching the Knicks. This is probably my number one reason for getting behind this strategy. Everyone knows the best coach for the Knicks would be Phil Jackson. But that is not going to happen. However, he wants to put his imprint on the team and install his beloved Triangle system. An established coach would not allow Phil to "meddle" in his practices and his coaching. But a rookie would welcome it. He would know that he is being mentored by one of the greatest coaches in the history of the league. This would allow Phil to "coach" without being tied to the team bus and the travel constraints that his health won't allow. So this is the next best thing. We get Phil at training camp, at practices, at coaching strategy sessions and he gets to stay home when the team travels. I'll take it.
Good luck to you, Coach Fisher.