Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
> Is this a good trend or a bad one, players (like Derek Fisher) jumping straight into head coaching jobs? Isn’t time spent as an assistant worth anything?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: This long has been a copycat league, so I’d get concerned if this started being copied for the wrong reason – to land a big name for name’s sake or to distract fans from an under-skilled roster. I think of the career assistants, too, who can’t crack the inner circle because they don’t have notable (or any) playing experience. But these trends tend to come in waves – it wasn’t long ago that Steve Clifford, Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown and others were getting “all” the jobs. I think smart, recent veterans players bring a great deal of knowledge, and instant credibility with their players. But I don’t see any downside in those guys spending a year or two sitting next to a head coach to learn more about the care and feeding of an NBA club.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Good trend, bad trend? Unless you’re running a halfway house for long suffering assistant coaches, the only thing that matters is winning. Does it work? It didn’t for Magic Johnson. The jury is out on Jason Kidd. Now Derek Fisher will get his chance. It’s like high school players making the jump to the NBA. Good idea if you’re Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett or Kobe Bryant. Others not so much. But Fisher ought to ask his new boss to get him a real team.
Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I don’t see it as good or bad. Last summer we saw a run on assistant coaches awarded first-time head coaching jobs. Jason Kidd was the outlier. I think the Knicks situation is, too. Phil Jackson wanted someone he knew, who came through his system. Steve Kerr was his top choice, but Kerr went to Golden State. If Kerr took the Knicks job as he nearly did, then we’re not even talking about Fisher as a coaching candidate. He might have ended up in a front office or wearing a headset on TV. As for the experience of learning on the bench as an assistant, well, 18 years in the league as a point guard is pretty good experience, too. There’s just no way of forecasting who will and who won’t be successful and why. Will Quin Snyder be the answer for the Jazz just because he built up his resume as an assistant? Maybe. And maybe Fisher will be the right man for the Knicks.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It depends on the team and the coach. It’s tough to compare Fisher with Jason Kidd, because Kidd is more basketball savant and Fisher is more expert communicator. They’re two very different people with, more importantly, two very different rosters. But time spent as an assistant can only help in regard to understanding the preparation that goes into a game plan, what information is most important, and what works on both ends of the floor. Kidd developed nicely over the course of seven months, but the Nets could have won 5-10 more games had he not had his early-season growing pains.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I don’t know how long this trend lasts, but I don’t think it’s detrimental to any part of the game. Who knows the intricacies of this game better than the men who toil between those lines on a regular basis? Why this sort of corporate knowledge wouldn’t be rewarded the same way work in the film room or as an assistant coach, for any amount of time, is beyond me. Time as an assistant is worth plenty. But it doesn’t guarantee success as a head coach any more than a stellar 19-year career as a player does. And that success or failure depends largely on the man taking that plunge, the support system surrounding him, the structure of the organization he’s joining and lastly and, I believe most important, the talent at his disposal. Kind of interesting the way it all comes full circle for the player-turned coach. Is Steve Kerr any more ready than Fisher? Nobody knows. I say good for Fisher and good for other players, who won’t have Phil Jackson waiting on them, interested in making that leap.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Time spent as an assistant can be valuable, but I don’t know if anything’s more valuable than having the experience of playing against the guys you’re coaching against just months earlier. It obviously took Jason Kidd some time to adjust to the coaching role, but he obviously warmed to it as the season went along. I think Fisher will have a similar learning curve in New York. If someone like me became a head coach with no prior experience and no time as an assistant on my resume, then I could see an outcry. But considering Fisher was out there playing just a week or two ago, I think he’s prepared.