New York Knicks should not fire Coach Derek Fisher


Disaster has struck the New York Knicks. They hold the worst record in the league, have been decimated by injuries, and are wasting the good years of Carmelo Anthony rebuilding.

This wasn’t how Phil Jackson envisioned his first season as team president.

The question becomes what to do next. In other words, who is to blame for this mess?

Coach Derek Fisher is an easy target. He is a head coach with no prior coaching experience in any form prior to this season. Canning him after one season doesn’t seem out of the question.

Is this the answer? Or should they stick with him?

History says stick with him.

The average tenure of an NBA coach is only 2.2 seasons. With so much turnover, every team looks for the right formula and person to lead their team to success.

What is the right formula for finding a good head coach to lead a team to success? Does Fisher fit into the formula?

Playing in the NBA forty years ago is very different than it is today. A player who wants to win will command the attention of someone who just had success in the same type of environment differently than someone who achieved it forty years ago.

One common denominator of all winning organizations is patience and stability. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, who have won multiple NBA championships have employed their current coaches for more than five seasons. Entering this season, both Greg Popovitch (Spurs) and Eric Spoelstra (Heat) were ranked in the top five for winning percentages amongst current NBA head coaches.

It takes time to establish a style of play, and then get the personnel to fit that style. Fisher’s triangle offense is different from the scheme run by previous head coach Mike Woodson. He needs time be given the players to run his system. Without this patience, a new coach will be hired every other season with different approaches that fit different personnel. It takes time to get establish the right makeup of a team. Firing Fisher would continue a vicious cycle of hiring a new coach too soon, leaving the next coach with players fit for Fisher, but not the next one’s system.

A critical part of establishing the makeup of a team comes through free agency. For a player to remain as a member of one team for his whole career is almost unheard of.

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Aside from money, what attracts players to certain teams? It’s the chance to win a championship. Karl Malone played his last season with the Los Angeles Lakers in a bid to win an NBA title. Gary Payton joined Malone on that team with the same goal in mind.

That Lakers team had stability with Jackson as head coach, who had time to establish a winning team in LA. A major reason for the Lakers success was the ability to attract players who felt comfortable enough to commit to the team. Without stability and the chance of a rebuild lurking, these players, and others like them would not have signed with their teams.

Firing Fisher takes away the attraction of stability to potential free agents. Players have a limited amount of time in the league. The older they get, the less time they have to win a title. With constant upheaval the appeal is lost. No appeal means no signings means limited success.

Feb 7, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks head coach

Jason Kidd

calls a play in the third quarter during the game against the Boston Celtics at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Another reason to keep him is because of the success of other coaches like him. Jason Kidd went straight from playing to coaching last season. In his rookie season as a head coach, he led the Nets to the second round of the playoffs. He is on pace to duplicate his success from last season by leading his current team, the Milwaukee Bucks, into the playoffs.

Former Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson had only five months of experience as an assistant coach before become the head coach in Dallas. He led the Mavs to an NBA finals appearance (2006) while winning coach of the year award for those efforts.

What do these coaches have in common? Both were NBA point guards who won championships as players.

A point guard is a default leader on the floor due to his role as the primary ball handler. Often calling plays, they see the court through the eyes of a coach more than any other player. This prepares them for a coaching role while still playing. Success as a player at that position is a good sign that he has the potential to be a successful head coach.

This success immediately gains respect of players. When it is recent success, the respect is even greater. The players feel the coach can relate to them better. Playing in the NBA forty years ago is very different than it is today. A player who wants to win will command the attention of someone who just had success in the same type of environment differently than someone who achieved it forty years ago.

Fisher is a former point guard who has won NBA championships. If Johnson and Kidd could make the transition successfully so can Fisher.

Give it time Knicks fans. Be patient while the organizations stabilizes. If it’s worked for others, it can work for the Knicks too.

Next: Who are the best Point Guards in Knicks history?

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