Knicks: Jackson Wants a Coach He Can Mentor


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The most heavily talked about candidates for the New York Knicks’ head coaching vacancy this offseason haven’t necessarily been the ones you would think. The search for the next head coach at Madison Square Garden has been a quirky and unexpected adventure as veterans with years on an NBA bench under their belt aren’t what’s peaking the interest of Knicks president Phil Jackson. Its two former players and disciples that he’s tried the hardest to lure in so far. First it was Warriors coach Steve Kerr and now Derek Fisher—neither of whom has coached in the NBA.

Why is it that Jackson would want a coach with no experience whatsoever to turn an underachieving team around in a high-pressure environment?

The answer has become increasingly simple, as Phil has laid the clues out for us. Now that there’s a second candidate Phil has pursued, the similarities between the two are obvious. The most underrated characteristic of Jackson’s search until now has been the fact that he’s looking for an inexperienced coach all along. Sources have told local media outlets like ESPN New York that Jackson has always intended to hire someone he can mentor and mold.

The search has evolved to the point where it looks like someone who is familiar with Jax’s system and ideology is the best fit to coach this team. It eliminates the coach needing to look over his shoulder for the president jumping in and the media firestorm that comes with it. The most important thing is that it allows Phil to have a more hands-on role with the team than a normal front office position would normally entail and let him be involved on the court during training camp and practices, a benefit for Fisher and the team. Jackson is inserting his system and ideology in New York no matter what and logic says familiarity and belief in those things from the coaching choice would allow the operation to run more smoothly than it would perhaps with a candidate of a different background.

The signs on Broadway point to the Fisher being hired just like they did Kerr. But since we can’t rule anything out and the Lakers have interest, we can only hope this isn’t the sequel of a team coming in to steal the next Knicks coach. No matter what, it’s possible Fisher could go in a different direction and the Knicks could get burned again. After all, Fisher’s family is located in Los Angeles and he even returned to the Lakers after playing in Utah to get his daughter medical care in a larger city with the right resources. On that front, New York could serve as a fit also.

It understandably could be a bit difficult for a fan to trust a first year coach at such a crucial time for this organization but it’s continuously been my opinion that the Knick fans just need to have faith in Jackson’s course of action. Considering the alternative and the people the Knicks would have had running the show if Jax didn’t hop on board, fans should feel grateful. Despite Jackson losing out on his first option and the recent $25,000 tampering fine, Phil is putting his plan to use and making it known he wants Fisher. Before Jackson came there was no plan—just band-aids placed on bullet wounds in the form of frivolous spending and one mistake after another by James Dolan. While there’s no guarantee this ends in a championship, it is guaranteed to end better than it would have under Steve Mills and Dolan.

In the end, you’ve still got to feel like if Fisher wants to coach that New York serves as a match and there should be confidence a deal will get done. Working under Jackson’s tutelage will make the transition from playing to coaching easier for Fisher while stepping into a position of built-in (comradery with the most important part of the front office. Fisher has always been a well-respected player and it’s sure to be the same as a coach, especially considering players seem to have a special type of respect for coaches that just ended their playing careers recently. New York saw a healthy dose of that in Jason Kidd’s first season in Brooklyn and Knicks fans would definitely welcome Fisher having the type of impact Kidd did across town. back to the Garden, it appears that Fisher is indeed the man for the Knicks job. So long as the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard decides he wants to trade in his sneakers for a pair of shoes and a suit.

If Jackson felt Kerr was the guy for the job, observers like us are resigned to trusting in the Zen Master’s plan to return the Knicks to postseason relevance. That sentiment holds true with Derek Fisher and if he’s type of candidate that Phil thinks fits his plan and system the best, then that’s the guy he should hire.

Jackson and Fisher are set to meet later in the week and then we shall see how the courting process goes this time around for the Knicks president. Barring any strategy-flipping power move from Jackson that brings Jeff Van Gundy or Mark Jackson (the pipe dream scenarios) back to the Garden, it appears that Fisher is indeed the man for the Knicks job. So long as the Oklahoma City Thunder point guard decides he wants to trade in his sneakers for a pair of shoes and a suit on the sideline.