- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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All signs point to Derek Fisher being the favorite to land the Knicks head coaching job at this point.
But plans can change quickly in an NBA coaching search. Not long ago, the Knicks were finalizing a contract to hire Steve Kerr, remember? We all know how that worked out.
So the idea Fisher is a favorite for the Knicks job should be taken with a grain of salt.
Surely, Phil Jackson would love to hire his former player, but he's also intrigued by Brian Shaw. And if Denver were to make Shaw available, the Knicks' plans may change. Though, based on how Jackson described his preference for a head coach, Fisher seems to fit the profile.
What Phil said: “We’re looking for a leader,” Jackson said last month. “Someone who can bring out the best in players, someone who has the capability of encouraging the staff to meet the needs that players have, that philosophically join in, they buy into what we’re doing.”
Why Fisher fits: Fisher, an 18-year veteran, is widely viewed as a leader on the court and away from it. And one that can "get the best" out of players, as Jackson states.
Just ask Kevin Durant, who spoke about Fisher earlier this week:
He's a great motivator, great speaker and can really relate to a lot of guys and demands that respect from everybody. He's a great locker room guy. I'm sure he'll do a great job [as a coach].
If you need further evidence of Fisher's leadership, listen to what ex-teammate Kobe Bryant had to say about the championship timber of the former Laker a few days after Fisher was traded to the Thunder:
That doesn't happen by accident. There's a reason why players that have multiple championships have multiple championships. There's a certain characteristic and an understanding and knowledge and that's not something that's easily taught. You kind of have to go through it and it kind of has to be part of your DNA from the beginning. So, that's something that's obviously tough to replace.
Jackson himself wrote about Fisher's leadership in his book, "Eleven Rings." He also praised Fisher for his positive effect on the Lakers and Bryant. Fisher is the all-time NBA leader in playoff games played.
Fisher and Bryant came into the NBA as rookies together. And Fisher earned Bryant's respect when the two nearly came to blows during a practice during the 1996-97 season. If Fisher can earn Bryant's respect, it shouldn't be too difficult for him to command respect in the Knicks' locker room.
What Phil said: "New York I think demands a personality, a person that fans can believe in, a person who has charismatic appeal, and has a forward-looking idea about the game."
Why Fisher fits: Fisher knows how to deal with the media and communicate with fans. So he can exude all the charisma Phil desires. He has a strong knowledge of the triangle offense via his playing days with the Lakers and is also familiar with other offenses, having played in Golden State, Oklahoma City and Utah.
Fisher is also very familiar with New York. He spent significant time in the city during the 2011 lockout and New York has sentimental value for Fisher as well. His daughter received treatment at a New York hospital for retinoblastoma, a degenerative and rare form of eye cancer. It required emergency three-hour surgery and occurred in the middle of a playoff series.
What Phil said: “Hiring a coach I don’t think it's important [to have] a timetable,” Jackson said last month. “We’d really like to have a coach in our summer-league camp, or our summer-league games out in Las Vegas in July. That is important to us."
Why Fisher fits: Fisher, a OKC Thunder guard, is in the midst of a playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. Jackson won't be able to speak to Fisher until the Thunder are eliminated. The fact that Jackson is in no hurry to hire a coach bodes well for Fisher. Fisher hasn't made it clear that he'd like to coach after the season and will be able to take his time to make a decision.
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