Report: Derek Fisher Is Front-Runner for New York Knicks Head Coach

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2014

Getty Images

Steve Kerr didn't work out for the New York Knicks, and now Phil Jackson has been left scrambling to find a backup plan. Granted, he has a lot of time to do so. 

"Hiring a coach I don't think's important with a timetable," Jackson revealed last month, courtesy of the New York Daily News' Frank Isola. "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."

But Isola also gives us one more interesting takeaway: 

Oklahoma City guard Derek Fisher, who played under Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers, is emerging as a leading candidate to join Jackson in New York now that Jackson's first choice, Steve Kerr, has signed with the Golden State Warriors. Fisher, of course, has zero head coaching experience but Jackson believes that Fisher has the intelligence and worth ethic to become a successful if he were to make the move from player to coach. Most recently, Jason Kidd went right from playing to being hired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

The Zen Master must have some sort of affinity for candidates with absolutely no coaching experience. Either that, or he just really likes his former players. 

One of the two. 

Let's not forget that Fisher played for Jackson when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers. He might not have been a star player—neither was Kerr, for that matter—but he knew his role, understood the triangle offense and was always a model teammate and intelligent member of the organization. 

That counts more than superstardom in Jackson's book, or so it seems. 

As Rob Mahoney wrote for Sports Illustrated, "Fisher is a favorite response when NBA types are asked which active players would make the best head coaches, though that vote of confidence is a few degrees removed from being seriously considered as a coaching option for the Knicks as soon as this summer." 

Accordingly, Isola's source reveals that Fisher would likely be surrounded by an experienced group of assistant coaches, with Bill Cartwright (Chicago Bulls connection) and Kurt Rambis (Lakers connection) chief among them. 

Assuming that Fish really is the No. 1 candidate, you can expect the Knicks' coaching search to stagnate for a little while. After all, the lefty point guard, unlike New York, isn't done with his 2013-14 season. 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 13:  Derek Fisher #6 of the Oklahoma City Thunder takes a shot againt J.J. Redick #4 of the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 13, 2
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

He's still playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are attempting to navigate the minefield that is the ridiculous slate of competition in the Western Conference. And while Fisher isn't on the floor much—he's averaging 13.4 minutes per game heading into Game 6 of the second-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers—Jackson of all people should understand that the southpaw still pours his heart and soul into supporting his team. 

There's a lot to absorb here. 

Apparently, coaching experience is no longer a prerequisite for a lead job on an NBA sideline. Jackson is incredibly devoted to his personal favorites. Fisher and Jason Kidd have more in common than we thought. 

But even if you're hesitant to proclaim Fisher's reported front-runner status a good thing, just remember that doubting the Zen Master doesn't usually end well.