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Derek Fisher offended at insinuations 'integrity' reason for firing

One month after his firing as New York Knicks head coach, Derek Fisher said his dismissal was not due to his personal life and the incident with Matt Barnes.

In an essay for The Cauldron/Sports Illustrated titled "Truth," Fisher wrote that he wanted to set the record straight on his Knicks tenure and what he addressed as the Matt Barnes "situation."

It's the first time Fisher has spoken since team president Phil Jackson fired his first coaching hire after a season and a half on Feb. 8.

"I want to let people know that you can't just make things up and get away with it ... Let's address this idea that I lost my job because of certain 'character' or 'integrity' issues. Not only is any such insinuation untrue, it's downright offensive."

Derek Fisher

"In the time that's passed, there's been a lot written and said about me, most of it amounting to nothing more than rumors and gossip," Fisher wrote. "... I want to let people know that you can't just make things up and get away with it ... Let's address this idea that I lost my job because of certain 'character' or 'integrity' issues. Not only is any such insinuation untrue, it's downright offensive."

Fisher was fired during a stretch in which the Knicks had lost nine of 10 games.

"When the organization informed me of its decision, the conversation was short," Fisher said. "The underlying message was that things weren't working out the way they had hoped ... At no time did anyone at that meeting express to me that stories about my personal life were distracting from the collective task at hand, or  --  more important  -- that any of my players had expressed to management that they had lost confidence in me as their coach. Nothing remotely like that was ever brought up or discussed."

Fisher, who went 17-65 in his first season before he was let go at 23-31 this year, said he did not lose the locker room and that players still played for him. The Knicks (27-39) have lost eight of 12 games since Fisher's firing.

Fisher also detailed what his involvement was in an altercation with his one-time Los Angeles Lakers teammate and current Memphis Grizzlies forward Barnes.

Barnes and Fisher had a well-documented run-in at the home of Barnes' ex-wife, Gloria Govan, on Oct. 3. Fisher flew to Los Angeles from New York during a brief break in Knicks training camp and would end up missing a practice due to what he said was a plane issue.

The former Knicks coach explained that when he first started dating Govan, she had been separated from Barnes "and living apart for more than a year."

"Same thing for me," Fisher wrote. "My wife and I were long separated; she was in L.A., I was in New York. Matt and Gloria were not trying to work things out, and I certainly wasn't seeing her behind Matt's back or in secret. The relationship wasn't something I was trying to publicize, but it also wasn't something I was trying to hide, either. There was no reason to."

Barnes has explained to ESPN's Ramona Shelburne that he went to his ex-wife's home to check on his 6-year-old twin sons when he got concerned after receiving a text from one of them.

"I don't know what was going through Matt's mind that day in October when he showed up unannounced at Gloria's house, and started swinging," Fisher said. "I didn't retaliate. No one who was there did anything but try to get him to calm down, particularly because Matt and Gloria's children were present. There was no fight. That's it. There's nothing more to what happened than that."

Barnes was suspended for two games by the NBA for the incident.

"Unfortunately, when the Knicks made the decision to let me go, some people  --  particularly certain members of the media  --  decided to take advantage of what had happened in my personal life, spinning those events as justification for the team's decision to fire me," Fisher said. "Look, I get it ... salacious gossip sells papers and garners clicks, but when you publish outright lies, I have a right to defend myself."

Fisher also alluded to the story being leaked by someone with an agenda.

"I definitely didn't wish for the incident to become public knowledge," he wrote. "... As an NBA head coach, I was more than aware that actions off the court might reflect upon many others beyond just me. Then suddenly, the story of a 'fight' leaked to the media. I'll let you speculate on who leaked it and why, and the nature of their character. My reputation speaks for itself."

Fisher says that his relationship with Barnes before the altercation wasn't a significant one and certainly not a close friendship.

"To say that we had history before the incident would be an exaggeration," Fisher said of Barnes. "We played together for the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2010-11 season, and a couple months in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season. That's it. That's the history."

"During that time, we were teammates, and never had any issues," Fisher continued. "We never had any real relationship off the court, either. Our kids didn't hang out, our families didn't interact. There were no birthday parties. There were no post-game dinners. We weren't friends and we had no mutual friends."

Fisher said he is not sure what he will do next after his first coaching stint lasted just a season and a half.

"I know I'm not perfect," Fisher said. "I'm human and flawed. I've failed. I have shortcomings. Everybody does. That being said, I've been in the NBA and the public eye for 20 years.

"Plenty of people know me well, and they know my true character. I would not have been allowed to lead the teams I led without the character and integrity I possess."