Phil Jackson on the Derek Fisher firing: “The team did not develop under him”
Jackson, who is perhaps the greatest coach in NBA history with 11 titles, has been unable to find that same kind of success in the front office (it would be impossible, really). The job requirements are much different, and while he’s made some applaud-worthy moves like drafting Kristaps Porzingis, the unrelenting New York market still isn’t convinced that he’s the right man for the job.
This past season, the Knicks started strong before falling off during the middle portion of the schedule. After heavy deliberation, Jackson eventually decided to part ways with head coach, Derek Fisher.
Fisher, of course, played for Jackson for much of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Led by superstars like Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, Fisher and Jackson won five championships from 2000-2010 with the Purple & Gold.
Given the improvements from the year before when the Knicks went just 17-65, many people were surprised when Fisher was let go. He was involved in a confrontation with former teammate Matt Barnes the summer before, but Jackson never gave any indication that it played a role in this decision.
Jackson spoke with Today’s Fastbreak’s Charley Rosen about the reasoning for the firing of Fisher, opening up about what ultimately led to him pulling the trigger:
“Almost from the start, this was a difficult time for Derek. Derek did have a situation that took some focus away from his coaching during the preseason, but I never doubted that his focus was on coaching the team. A divorce and coast-to-coast move with children does put pressure on a person’s life, but that’s the NBA. However, Derek did move the team forward. He was dedicated and he worked hard. The players hustled and, for the most part, stayed as positive as was possible. And Derek did manage to survive last season and to deal with the heavy pressure of the constant losing, which is probably more intense in New York than in any other NBA city.
“When I was coaching, I liked to play a lot of players and usually found a rotation of 9-10 players to play, but it was hard for Derek to find a workable rotation. Nevertheless, the team did develop under him, and we have enough pieces in place to give us a chance to compete every night.”
One could surely argue that Fisher wasn’t given enough time to get the Knicks to develop and blossom into the team Jackson envisioned, but that’s the nature of the NBA. The turnover rate of coaches in this league is brutal, and given some of the other firings we’ve seen in recent years, this one is at least reasonable.
We’ll see how Jeff Hornacek fares this coming year.