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Monday, June 9, 2014
Rapid Reaction: Knicks hire Derek Fisher

By Ian Begley

Derek Fisher is stepping off the court and taking a seat on the bench. The 39-year-old has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal to coach the New York Knicks.

Here’s a look at what this means for the Knicks, and for Fisher:

Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher.
Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, now the two leaders of the New York Knicks.
Phil finally got his man: Knicks president Phil Jackson has been searching for a coach who shares his basketball philosophy. He's found one in Fisher. Fisher is intimately familiar with Jackson's triangle offense. He won five championship rings under Jackson in Los Angeles and played parts of nine seasons for the Zen Master.

Fisher's relationship with Jackson is believed to be one of the driving factors behind his decision to take the job. He also was mulling potential front office opportunities, the head-coaching vacancy in Los Angeles and a return to the court.

Now the Knicks hope Fisher can make a quick transition from playing point guard to running an NBA team.

He won't be the first player to make such a move. Jason Kidd retired after playing the 2012-13 season with the Knicks and was hired by the Brooklyn Nets shortly after hanging 'em up. Kidd's Nets lost in the second round of the 2014 playoffs to the Miami Heat.

Fisher, of course, was Jackson's second choice -- he initially sought to hire Steve Kerr. But Kerr decided to take the Golden State Warriors' coaching job, in part to remain closer to his San Diego home.

No experience necessary? Fisher has never coached before. He takes over a Knicks team coming off a 37-win season in a market that doesn’t handle losing well. That’s a challenge for any coach, let alone one entering his first season on the bench -- though it should be noted that both former Knick Mark Jackson and Kidd had success in their first season at the helm.

Expectations will be a bit tempered because the Knicks’ roster isn’t likely to change much this offseason. But Fisher, the 26th coach in franchise history, will still be expected to win in Year 1.

Fisher will have Jackson around to guide him through the ups and downs of the season, and that should make things easier. But the Zen Master’s presence could be a double-edged sword. A long losing streak could lead to full-throated “We Want Phil” chants from the Madison Square Garden faithful.

By all accounts, Fisher has the temperament and self-confidence to handle such pressure. He is well-respected among his peers and widely known as a strong presence in the locker room.

Fisher also has the kind of résumé that commands respect. He has played in an NBA record 259 playoff games, and won an NBA record 161.

Jackson eschewed candidates with more experience, such as Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, in part due to Fisher's knowledge of the triangle offense. Only time will tell if Jackson made a mistake in not going after a more seasoned coach.

What about Melo? Now that Fisher is in place, Jackson will turn his full attention to Carmelo Anthony and free agency. It will be interesting to see how, if at all, Fisher’s hiring impacts Anthony, who is expected to test the market come July.

Anthony hasn’t commented publicly about Fisher. He has said his first priority is to re-sign with the Knicks, but he would also like to be in a situation where he can perennially contend for a title. So the Knicks’ new head coach will likely factor into his decision.

It’s fair to assume Fisher will have some input into personnel decisions, as well. The Knicks have several expiring contracts on the books this season (Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani) and are expected to have cap space to spend in the summer of 2015. So Fisher may have some influence on how the Knicks handle the contracts of the veterans named above, and how they approach free agency.

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