VIDEO: Derek Fisher got ejected for arguing a call earlier this season. The Knicks fired him today.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Technically, the New York Knicks “relieved” Derek Fisher of his duties as coach today, which is a fancy way of saying they fired Phil Jackson‘s hand-picked choice to lead the franchise.
Kurt Rambis has been elevated to the top job in Fisher’s place, leaving yet another franchise with an interim (or replacement) in place of the coach they started with this season. It’s the latest in a somewhat shocking run of coaching decisions around the league.
And it just goes to show that no matter if you’re winning or losing, when it’s open season on coaches in the NBA, anybody could be on the firing line — just ask George Karl, who is reportedly on the hot seat in Sacramento.
Kevin McHale was the first to go this season, lasting just 11 games in Houston before being shoved out and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff. Lionel Hollins got the boot in Brooklyn after a dreadful start and was replaced by Tony Brown. David Blatt, fresh off of a trip to The Finals and his team sitting at 30-11 and first place in the Eastern Conference, was next. Tyronn Lue was tabbed as his successor and is 6-3 since making that 18-inch move over to the big chair. And just last week Jeff Hornacek was tossed out in Phoenix and replaced by Earl Watson.
And now comes the news that Fisher, a Phil Jackson disciple but a coaching novice, is out after a season and a half and just 136 games (with a woeful 40-96 record).
With the Knicks mired in a 1-9 slide, including five straight losses, and seemingly no relief in sight, Jackson apparently decided that enough was enough. We’ll find out what the final straw was late today when Jackson addresses the media after practice.
But it’s clear that in New York and everywhere else, if ownership and the front office believe that there is a disconnect (real or simply perceived) between the talent on the roster and the coach responsible for getting the most out of that talent, the coach is expendable.
The five coaching changes prior to All-Star Weekend is the most since the eight coaching changes prior to the break during the 2008-09 season.
The term “crazy season” is usually reserved for the rumors and drama surrounding this month’s trade deadline. It seems a more appropriate title for all of the coaching changes going on this season.
Blatt’s contemporaries, notably Rick Carlisle in Dallas and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, expressed their outrage when he was fired and Cavaliers GM David Griffin did his best to explain why a coach with a sterling record was out of his league, and ultimately out of a job, trying to coach a star-studded roster.
Carlisle and Van Gundy should know better than anyone how this works, since they were both fired from previous jobs in the league where they were wildly successful.
There is no real rhyme or reason to these things. Sometimes it’s a gut feeling, sometimes it’s the things we can’t see from the outside and sometimes it’s just clash of personalities or philosophies that lead to a coaching divorce.
Fisher had no coaching experience prior to being selected to coach the Knicks. And he wasn’t even Jackson’s first choice, that would have been Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who in hindsight obviously made the right choice.
The most important choice for Jackson going forward is getting it right this time. He’ll have his pick of out-of-work coaches, like Tom Thibodeau, or he can wait on an up and coming assistant like Luke Walton. Whatever his choice, it has to be someone that can get the most out of the Carmelo Anthony–Kristaps Porzingis combination and perhaps more importantly, someone with the toughness and resolve to survive the “crazy season” expectations that all of these franchises are caught up in.