File this one under: Completely Unbiased Opinions—No, Really, These Guys Are Totally Objective. Seriously.
According to the New York Post’s Marc Berman, Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder believes teammate Derek Fisher will make a great head coach if and when he decides to retire—presumably sometime early next century.
“Without a doubt,” Durant said. “He’s a smart guy, smart mind. 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.”
OKC veteran forward Nick Collison echoed KD’s glowing sentiments:
I’m sure he’s thinking about it in the back of his mind but he’s great for us on the court and off the court. If that’s the field he chooses, I think he’ll be great. He’s unique, one-of-a-kind. The only guy I ever played with who can address the team in a way as a leader. He’s able to address the team more so than anybody I played with and he backs it up on the court, too.
Ever since being spurned by Steve Kerr, the New York Knicks have redoubled their efforts to find a replacement for recently dismissed skipper Mike Woodson.
Fisher, who played for years under New York’s new president of basketball operations, Phil Jackson, and presumably understands the ins and outs of the triangle offense, is considered one of the leading candidates for the position.
However, USA Today's Sam Amick hinted at another, more practical course for Fisher.
On the Derek Fisher front, I'm told one possibility that has been discussed in addition to head coach: player/asst. w/ Thunder next year.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 21, 2014
Fisher could play one more season while learning coaching ropes (unofficial asst.) under Scott Brooks. That entire group values him greatly.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) May 21, 2014
This makes complete sense. Not only would a year as an assistant do wonders for Fisher's coaching confidence; it would also allow him to better survey the NBA coaching landscape, so as not to, you know, wind up getting run out of town by a certain impatient fanbase.
Of course, Fisher still has some business to attend to, namely helping lead the young Thunder past the San Antonio Spurs and into their second Finals appearance in three years.
Recent NBA history is rife with former players with no formal coaching experience taking the position’s most heralded reins, with Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and now Kerr being the three most notable examples.
In a recent piece for Bleacher Report, J.M. Poulard drills down to what makes Fisher’s basketball bona fides so special, even given his lack of formal coaching training:
Fisher has played for legendary coaches such as Jackson and Jerry Sloan, and furthermore, he bounced around for a bit with the Lakers, Utah Jazz and Thunder. He's been in different locker rooms and probably understands how to pull guys together because of those experiences.
Remember, Fisher also served as president of the Players Union, a clear indication that he can be entrusted with power when called upon to lead. Interestingly enough, USA TODAY's Sam Amick reported in late March that it's possible Fisher could get a front-office job as well given his management skills. It would appear as though he will be in high demand.
Whether Fisher can endure the unrivaled rancor of New York’s merciless media—to say nothing of the expectations of a glory-starved fanbase—stands as the biggest potential pitfall to the 18-year NBA veteran’s seamless transition from court to clipboard.
At the same time, there’s plenty of precedence to suggest Fisher’s got just as good of a shot at succeeding off the bat as any seasoned assistant. Should he accept the Knicks vacancy, he’ll also have a trusted mentor there to support him through what promises to be a tumultuous learning curve.
If the future finds him drawing up a play called “Fall on Your Face and Let Kevin Durant Steal the Ball and Score” when the Knicks face the Thunder in the Finals, then we can start asking questions.