Derek Fisher Thinks He Could Coach Longtime Teammate Kobe Bryant

Jim CavanContributor IJune 1, 2014

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29:  Derek Fisher #37 of the Oklahoma City Thunder is greeted by Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on March 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

As expected, it didn’t take long after the Oklahoma City Thunder’s playoff-ousting loss to the San Antonio Spurs before the focus switched to which team would scoop up veteran guard Derek Fisher as its next head coach.

The presumed favorite, Phil Jackson’s New York Knicks, are still thought to be squarely in the mix, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post.

But what about Fisher’s longtime employers? Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports, for one, notes that the Lakers have had their former five-time NBA champion point guard squarely on the radar screen.

During a Q&A with the press following Saturday's crippling loss, Fisher finally broached the subject of coaching his old team—and one rather important player in particular, per The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry:

Like the Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers are spinning the wheels to reel in a new skipper of their own after Mike D’Antoni announced his resignation on May 1. And while Fisher’s name hasn’t generated quite the buzz of other potential candidates, his longstanding L.A. ties could certainly warrant him some late consideration.

Still, Fisher’s choice of words is worth noting. If he hasn’t given much thought to the Lakers, does that mean he’s been pondering heading to New York?

It’s certainly hard to imagine Kobe Bryant somehow shooting down the idea of having his former teammate at the helm—his favorite teammate of all time, no less.

That’s assuming, of course, that general manager Mitch Kupchak even cares what Kobe thinks. Which seems doubtful, given this quote from an interview with ESPN at the NBA’s draft combine a few weeks back (via the Orange County Register’s Bill Oram):

From time to time we ask his advice. He really won’t weigh in on something like this. I’m not even sure that we’ll talk to him prior to interviews. He is in our facility and from time to time I’ll go down and talk to him about a bunch of different things.

Over at Pro Basketball Talk, Brett Pollakoff underscores the precarious position the Lakers are in, between pleasing a future franchise statue on the one hand and preparing for what could be a rocky future on the other:

But the Lakers are in an extremely difficult situation. The league’s glamor franchise wants desperately to get back to being relevant as quickly as possible after two consecutive dismal seasons, and rebuilding properly for long-term success involves getting a coach on board who can implement a system and establish a culture of winning that will last far beyond the two years remaining on Bryant’s contract.

L.A. certainly would like to get someone in place who could bond with Bryant and help the team make one more run at a title while he’s still around. But that’s the dream — the reality is, it may take much longer, and the franchise needs to choose the best coaching candidate available more than it needs to acquiesce to Bryant’s wishes.

Here’s the bottom line: If Fisher’s on L.A.’s radar screen at all, he’s probably been there for a while now. Ergo, some one-off remark to an assemblage of Oklahoma City beat reporters isn’t going to somehow launch Fisher to the head of the coaching queue.

At the same time, with Fisher now free to speak freely to teams regarding his future, perhaps there’s a chance he could do what Steve Kerr arguably did: Cleverly use the Knicks as leverage for a better offer sheet in a place he’d prefer to be anyway.