It never hurts to look.
If you were to coin a phrase that perfectly encapsulates the Los Angeles Lakers' search for Mike D'Antoni's replacement, that's what it would be.
No option should be dismissed, no candidate overlooked.
That includes Derek Fisher.
Though the Lakers' coaching quest drags on, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski says they have given no indication that Fisher is under serious consideration:
So far, the Lakers have expressed an exclusive desire to explore experienced head coaches in their search, and there isn't yet an indication that team officials plan to seriously consider Fisher for the job, league sources said.
Los Angeles has so far interviewed four coaches about replacing Mike D'Antoni – Mike Dunleavy, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins.
For the sake of being thorough, this needs to change. If the Lakers are going to give face time to Mike Dunleavy and Kurt Rambis, Fisher, who hasn't even officially retired from the NBA, deserves a fair shake.
The Kobe Factor
Veteran coaches are good.
Kobe Bryant-approved ones, veteran or rookie, are better.
Pushing 36, Bryant shouldn't factor too heavily into this decision—to the extent that his word and preference cannot be gospel. But he should still be on the brass' mind. It's his title window the Lakers are trying to wedge open, after all.
This is something general manager Mitch Kupchak appears to understand, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan:
We have a player on our team right now who's proven in this league offensively who can score. That certainly is a consideration. We have to make sure that whoever we hire as a coach can really get the most productivity out of him, whether it's scoring the ball or playmaking or the threat that he may score. That's probably of primary importance right now.
If only there was someone available who, I don't know, perhaps knew and connected with Bryant, and maybe even won a few championships alongside him. Let's say five titles, just to put a number on it.
Oh, that's right, there is.
The Black Mamba and Fisher played alongside one another for the better part of a decade. They won five NBA championships together. Submitted to Phil Jackson's Zen together. Bryant was angry and upset when he was traded in 2012. This just feels right.
Even Fisher thinks so. Kind of, per The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry:
Fish on coaching Kobe: "I hadn't thought about that much. But when you're brothers, you're brothers, regardless of what capacity it's in."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) June 1, 2014
That's good enough for me.
Appeasing Bryant is never easy, but the Lakers don't have to worry about Bean clashing with their new head coach if it's Fisher. There may be a bump or disagreement here and there, because that happens when two beings of steadfast beliefs collide. Ultimately, though, they'll coexist in harmony.
"If something like that were to happen, we're brothers so we'll figure it out," Fisher said, via Mayberry.
Brothers are cool like that.
Already a Leader
Don't let his lack of experience fool you. Fisher is already a coach. He's just spent the last 18 years masquerading as a player, too.
To this point, Fisher has been non-committal about his imminent future. He hasn't said he'll retire, and he most definitely hasn't said he'll make the immediate jump to coaching if he does.
Yet while Fisher's busy championing indecision, not even he can deny that coaching has been his true calling:
Fisher says over the last decade or so he's felt like his calling in life was to be in a leadership role.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) June 1, 2014
Fisher: "Coaching allows for you to positively impact other people's lives."— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) June 1, 2014
Ask any NBA player which one of their comrades has also played and conducted himself like a coach, and most of them will cite Jason Kidd.
After him, there's Fisher.
The shiny-headed point guard is a leader, in every sense of the word. Players respect him. Coaches respect him. He is revered more than many current head honchos, and most definitely more than certain somebodies the Lakers have already interviewed (ahem, Dunleavy).
Consider, if you will, what Wojnarowski wrote after D'Antoni first resigned:
It is risky to hire a coach with no experience, but the right minds and right coaching staffs can make it work. Fisher will command respect and he'll be synonymous with a championship heritage that Lakers fans crave as a face of the franchise. Fisher is close to the end with the Thunder, and he'll be the rare non-star to choose his next direction: management, coaching or television.
Risks are unavoidable when hiring head coaches. It doesn't matter how much or how little experience they have to their name. Sure things don't exist in the NBA.
But Fisher isn't the most dangerous gambit the Lakers can take. There are worse. Much worse. At this point, they might be hard-pressed to find a safer play.
Unlike many other players-turned-coaches or veteran sideline-wanderers, Fisher has been around the block more than once.
No player in NBA history has appeared in more playoff games than him. That is not a typo or misprint. That is not some lie being laid in front of you as part of a sick, twisted game.
That, my friends, is the truth.
What Fisher lacks in actual coaching experience, he makes up for in player credentials and unsurpassed longevity.
Because, Why Not?
Part of me hates to play this card.
Most of me doesn't.
Excluding Fisher from their potential coaching ranks would make complete sense if the Lakers had something brewing, if there was some saintly savior putting pen to paper and dedicating himself to Los Angeles' cause.
Nothing is happening on that front, though. No sideline hero is on the way.
What the Lakers have, as Wojnarowski mentioned, are discussions with Byron Scott, Lion Hollins, Alvin Gentry, Dunleavy and Rambis. While each of them brings something different to the table, not one of them is the must-have candidate Los Angeles craves.
Until they find one, or settle for someone else, nothing and no one should be off limits.
Fisher, at the very least, deserves a meeting, a conversation. Truth be told, he deserves legitimate consideration.
Jackson wants him to coach the New York Knicks, so that must mean something. The Zen Master's last coaching choice wound up signing a fat contract with the Golden State Warriors following an extensive courtship. P-Jax hasn't shown he can he close the deal, but he clearly has a knack for spotting talented novices.
More importantly, Fisher—aside from his lack of experience—fits what the Lakers are looking for. They want someone who can make the most of now and later. At 39, Fisher isn't going anywhere anytime soon. His presence can resonate with Bryant and the Lakers of today while serving as a sideline building block for tomorrow.
Remember, this team doesn't have tangible talent. They have three players under guaranteed contract next season. They have an aging Bryant and a broken Steve Nash. They have Robert Sacre.
They have cap space.
Any coach they hire is going to be part of their primary foundation. Accelerating the rebuilding process demands they score big in free agency. Employing a coach who appeals to free agents is imperative if the Lakers don't have young, prime talents who render them a hot commodity.
Fisher can be the bridge that connects prospective targets to Los Angeles. His ties run deeper than his time in Los Angeles. After his stint in Oklahoma City, he now has a working relationship with Kevin Durant, which Wojnarowski says will help the Lakers long term:
The Lakers need to make themselves a destination again. Free agency has major importance in 2015 and '16 for the Lakers, and they'll need to be positioned to make a run at Kevin Durant.
Superstars want desperately to consider the Lakers in free agency, but they won't go anywhere based only on geography and banners. They'll need to see an infrastructure of talent, management structure and coaching. Durant will want a culture, and Fisher could've grown into the job by '16 to sell him on the Lakers' brand.
Now's about the time we climb out of this wormhole. Summer 2016 is too far away, the chances of landing Durant too slim, the image of a free-agency coup pretty much unfathomable.
There isn't anything going on in Los Angeles right now. No decision appears forthcoming, no sense of urgency has washed over the franchise. And that's kind of the point.
In the absence of that hire-now candidate, the Lakers must turn elsewhere. They must turn to Fisher.
No one is saying they have to hire him. Just give him a call. Have a conversation. Take a peek at what he has to offer.
It never hurts to look.
*Salary information via ShamSports.