City Sports Report

Derek Fisher forms identity as head coach of the New York Knicks

Derek Fisher, New York Knicks Head Coach and Phil Jackson (Photo by Marc Rasbury)

The start of a new NBA season is approaching, and for the New York Knicks, a new era is also beginning.

Derek Fisher apparently wants everyone to know he’s not Phil Jackson. He’s not 6’8” and doesn’t have a cool nickname like “The Zen Master”. What Fisher does have in common with Jackson is the five NBA championships he earned while playing for him with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Oh and then there’s the triangle offense, the offensive strategy that served as the formula to Jackson’s 11 NBA titles, 5 with the Lakers along with the first 6 he coached Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to. Fisher knows a little something about the triangle, he was Jackson’s point guard for the Lakers on those championship teams.

When the Knicks backed up the brinks truck and threw a 5-year, $60 million deal on the table for Jackson to become President of Basketball Operations, it was an acknowledgement that this team needed a credibility makeover. Jackson wisely knew he needed an extension of himself on the sidelines to be the head coach. The process eventually led to the hiring of Fisher.

Fisher picked up from Jackson the triangle offense, multiple championships, along with the many lessons in “Zen”. However, what Fisher is not is another Phil Jackson.

The Knicks first day of practice with Fisher as a head coach reportedly wasn’t about the triangle offense as many might expect. It was about defense … all defense (Youngmisuk, Sept, 29). That has to be music to the ears of any long-time Knicks fan, a full commitment to defense. Carmelo Anthony approved, so did Amar’e Stoudemire. It appears that the team leaders are buying in and that’s exactly what Fisher and Jackson are hoping for. Fisher wants his team playing defense just as much as Jackson wants them to master the triangle offense. Finding the right balance will be the key to Fisher establishing his own identity as head coach.

The 2014-2015 New York Knicks blueprint will have Jackson’s fingerprints all over it as the architect. However, Fisher is the voice that the players will hear in the huddle, from the sidelines, and when the games are on the line.

In “The Godfather“, Al Pacino, who starred as Michael Corleone, is the don no one in the family expected to ascend to power. Marlon Brando, as Don Corleone, was the proud father who provided early counsel to Michael that would serve as the foundation of his leadership. Michael took what his father taught him and applied it well, however he also became his own man in the process while forming his own identity. What better Consigliere for Fisher to have in his first year as an NBA head coach than Jackson?

I expect a return to the playoffs for the Knicks in what’s still an Eastern Conference with many question marks. The pieces are still coming together — and while they may still be another year or two away from competing for a championship — this team should be able to improve on their disappointing 37-45 record last season that left them out of the playoffs.

In order for this to happen, Fisher will need to get his players to learn the triangle and commit to defense. He’ll have Jackson the “Zen Master” in his corner for insight and to get him what he needs to be successful. However when it’s all said and done, he must still be able to show he can do it his way.

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