I woke up on Monday morning to the news that Derek Fisher had been fired as coach of the New York Knicks. Considering it was the Monday after the Super Bowl, it certainly took me by surprise.
However, I cannot say I’m shocked by the news.
After a feel good start to the season, when the Knicks started off with a record of 22-20, they’ve floundered to lose nine of their last ten games, putting their record at a season-low eight games under .500.
The Knicks have not played good basketball for the last few weeks, but this was not a team expected to be a contender in 2015-16.
I was under the impression that the Knicks and Phil Jackson wanted Derek Fisher to grow into the job of an NBA head coach.
After all, Fisher was given a five-year contract and totally deserved a complete free pass for the 17-65 mess that was his first year on the job.
No coach, not Pat Riley, not Red Auerbach, not Phil Jackson was going to win games with that group of Knicks.
This year, the performance of the basketball team has met my expectation of what I thought they would be going into the year.
So, did Derek Fisher deserve to be fired? Well, based upon what I’ve seen this season, I would initially say no, but I also wouldn’t give Fisher a ringing endorsement of the way he’s handled the team.
If David Blatt can get fired after a record of 30-11 with the Cavaliers, I’m not going to lose any sleep over Derek Fisher getting fired with a record of 23-31.
His rotation patterns have puzzled me, he’s done a poor job of drawing up plays at the end of games, and he’s done little to show me that he’ll develop into a top NBA coach.
Quite frankly, I think Phil Jackson’s decision combined a lot of different factors into the mix.
When you combine Fisher’s lack of communication with his assistant coaches, his deficiencies in-game, and of course the embarrassing off-the-court incident involving Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes’ estranged wife, it’s understandable why the Knicks decided to go in a different direction.
Hearing Phil Jackson say on Monday that Fisher was “relieved” to hear the news was all I needed to know about Derek Fisher as a head coach.
Now, a lot of names will be floated around over the next few weeks and months. Many of the connections will have ties to Phil Jackson and the triangle offense.
You’ll hear about Warriors assistant Luke Walton, former Nuggets head coach Brien Shaw and current interim coach Kurt Rambis mentioned as possible successors for the 2016-2017 season.
If I’m Phil Jackson, there’s only one guy I’d consider for the position, and that would be Tom Thibodeau , former Knicks assistant under Jeff Van Gundy and the former head coach of the Chicago Bulls.
Even though Thibodeau is not a disciple of the triangle offense and Phil Jackson, he’s an outstanding head coach.
He compiled a record of 255-139 in his five seasons in Chicago and was fired only because of a feud with Bulls owner Jerry Reisndorf.
If there was one characteristic of the “Thibs Bulls” it was of a tough-minded, hard-nosed basketball team that gave it their all each and every night.
The type of team that New York basketball fans would fall in love with.
He already has one current admirer in the Knicks organization. Carmelo Anthony flirted with playing for Thibs in Chicago back in the summer of 2014 and those two have an excellent relationship from their ties to USA Basketball.
So, you have a tough-minded coach with a winning track record with ties to the organization and who has a good relationship with the superstar of the team and actually wants the job!
Thibs would be a slam dunk hire for the Knicks. There is no better current coaching candidate out there.
Skeptics would point to a contrast in personalities between Jackson and Thibodeau, suggesting it would never work here in New York.
However, I think it’s up to Phil Jackson to make it work. The idea is to bring in the best coach you possibly can to help the New York Knicks, not just to preach the triangle offense and take care of your buddies.
If Phil Jackson’s priority is bringing in the best coach to lead the team, the choice is simple.