Best Potential Options to Join Derek Fisher's Staff with New York Knicks

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 11, 2014

Best Potential Options to Join Derek Fisher's Staff with New York Knicks

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    Congratulations on becoming head coach of the New York Knicks, Derek Fisher.

    Now get to work. 

    There is little time to bask in the end of New York's long, albeit exclusive, search for a new head honcho. Steve Kerr was supposed to fill the position long before now, so in a way, Fisher and the Knicks have ground to make up. 

    First order of business? Assemble a team of assistants.

    Head coaches receive all the attention and credit, but those working by their side, on the bench, sometimes behind the scenes, are incredibly important.

    Especially in New York.

    "Listening to his assistant coaches," ESPN.com's J.A. Adande wrote. "Fisher has much to learn, quickly." 

    Learning the coaching ropes is a process Fisher won't be able to complete on his own. And while he has Phil Jackson to mentor him, associate coaches will be his in-game lifelines. 

    Fellow newbies could find their way to New York, but the team must also seek out the right mix of experience and leadership. Think of the Jason Kidd and Lawrence Frank dynamic here—sans abrupt power struggle.

    Though Fisher is going to lead the Knicks into a new era, he still needs a few good men lighting the way.

Jim Cleamons

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    There are harder things in life than poaching an assistant coach from the Milwaukee Bucks

    Jim Cleamons—who is currently an assistant in Milwaukee, in case you didn't pick up on that—was initially one of the long-shot candidates to succeed Mike Woodson, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. He won nine championship rings alongside Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, making him an ideal running mate for D-Fish.

    Better still, Berman says he was close with former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers assistant Tex Winter, who brought the triangle "into Jackson’s coaching life." He might as well be one of guys who helps bring it into Fisher's coaching life as well.

    Would he be willing to leave Milwaukee for New York?

    I'll pretend I didn't ask that. Milwaukee is a nice city—true story—but it's not the Big Apple. 

    If Cleamons is looking to deepen his resume and elevate his status, New York is just the place for him to be.

    Working with the championship ring-clad Jackson again is just the occupational rainbow to an already bright opportunity.

Rick Fox

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    Look, if he was good enough to land a prominent role in Eddie, he's good enough to join Fisher's assistant coach ranks.

    Well that, and after winning three championships alongside Jackson and Fisher, he's bound to know a thing or two about triangle-ing. You have to think that he'll receive some consideration given his ties to both champions. 

    Before Fisher was officially hired, Fox also revealed on NBC Sports Radio's The Erik Kuselias Show that he was a candidate to become New York's next head coach (via Pro Basketball Talk):

    Yeah…I’ve been a candidate for while and what I’m comfortable communicating is that there’s really nothing for me to do. Phil has expressed his interest, and the patience for him discovering who is right for that job is left in his court. I know that Phil is as competent a coach as there ever was so that if you’re a Knicks fan, to know that he’s going to find the right person to work with in that capacity has to be comforting to those people and you just let it play out.

    Assuming he harbors no hard feelings after being passed over for the head coaching gig, his dialogue with the Knicks won't end there. And let's face it, there's no way he's surprised about Jackson's decision.

    Once Kerr was out of the picture, Fisher was the clear Plan B. Everyone else fell into the Plan C platform. This job was always Fisher's to accept.

    If it makes Fox feel any better, he has a decent chance at being among the first tier of assistants.

    Familiarity holds clout within Madison Square Garden these days. Former players and teammates of Jackson and Fisher should have a direct line to a future in New York—Fox included.

Bill Cartwright

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    Another blast from the Zen Master's past.

    Bill Cartwright was among the candidates to join Kerr's coaching staff in New York. But then Kerr up and left for Oakland, leaving Cartwright in slight limbo.

    According to the New York Daily News' Mitch Abramson, Cartwright is still in the running to join the Knicks, but he could also have the option of syncing up with Kerr's Golden State Warriors. The deciding factor may wind up being his willingness to take marching orders from Fisher:

    Cartwright, 56, declined to answer whether he would be OK with being an assistant to Fisher...Cartwright spent 13 years in the NBA as an assistant and parts of three seasons as a head coach.

    “That’s a Phil question, not my question,” said Cartwright, who was out of the league last year. “I’m looking to coach,” Cartwright said of his intentions. “There’s really nothing more to say, outside of that. I’m looking to coach.”

    The Jackson disciple has head coaching experience. He guided the Bulls through 151 games over two-plus seasons (2001-04), during which time he only won 51 total contests. Still, he, like everyone else on this list, understands the triangle and can help the Knicks institute it.

    Unlike many others, he has those two-plus years of head coaching work under his belt. With Jackson overseeing things from afar, he can be Fisher's rock on the bench—the sideline assistant who whispers sweet, encouraging nothings into his ear when the going gets tough and certain situations prove foreign.

Kurt Rambis

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    Virtual. Certainty.

    Kurt Rambis has already interviewed with the Los Angeles Lakers about replacing Mike D'Antoni, according to the Los Angeles Times' Mike Bresnahan, but in the likely event that opportunity falls through, expect him to partake in the Zen-Fish collaboration.

    Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News says the Knicks have already received permission from the Lakers—with whom Rambis is an assistant—to speak with him. Bleacher Report's Howard Beck also cited him as someone the Knicks will target to become Fisher's lead assistant.

    Leaving Los Angeles for New York appears to be a lateral move, but if Rambis isn't chosen to be the Lakers' next head coach, his future under the new one wouldn't be etched in stone. The Lakers are also immersed in an extensive rebuild, while the Knicks have an opportunity to make some noise in the Eastern Conference if Carmelo Anthony returns next year.

    Although Rambis never found success as a head coach—he won just 32 games in two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves—he's seen as an "ideal" assistant, per Beck. His familiarity with Jackson and the triangle could make him an integral part of Fisher's transition from player to coach. 

    Will he actually be open to leaving Los Angeles for another assistant job?

    Depending who the Lakers eventually hire to succeed Magic Mike, Rambis may not be the one making that decision.

Luke Walton

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    Triangle experience?

    Check.

    Multiple NBA championships? 

    Check (two).

    Grateful Dead basketball-wielding dancing skeletons tattoo?

    Check again. 

    Get ready to hear Luke Walton's name a lot. At the very least, he's going to receive serious consideration from Fisher. He already has Jackson's stamp of approval, and Fisher, his former teammate, might not be far behind.

    "I've talked to Phil a bunch; thought about different things and I've talked to him in the past about coaching," Walton said Friday during an interview on ESPN Radio's The Herd with Colin Cowherd (via ESPN New York's Ian Begley). "He's told me he thinks that I'll be a great coach someday." 

    Today could be that day.

    Walton has already expressed interest in joining Fisher's staff, per Medina. He even earned some serious brownie points by saying the 18-year veteran was a "great hire" for the Knicks organization. Making your potential employer blush and/or smile is never a bad thing.

    One issue, of course, remains Walton's lack of coaching experience. Surrounding Fisher with veteran assistants and former head coaches will be of top priority. He has the Zen Master to lean on, but the Knicks will want people with extensive coaching backgrounds on the bench with him. 

    If bare resumes aren't a point of conflict, well, prepare to see more of Walton in New York.