After a month of the media and others speculating about what led to his dismissal as the New York Knicks head coach, Derek Fisher is firing back.
At no time did anyone at that meeting express to me that stories about my personal life were distracting from the collective task at hand, or — more important — that any of my players had expressed to management that they had lost confidence in me as their coach. Nothing remotely like that was ever brought up or discussed.
In October, Barnes reportedly drove 95 miles to "beat the s--t out of" Fisher after finding out the former Knicks coach was romantically involved with his estranged wife, via Ian Mohr of the New York Post.
"A fight erupted at 11:45 p.m. between the 235-pound Barnes and the 6-1, 200-pound Fisher," according to Mohr. "Cops were called, but Fisher left before they arrived, the sources said."
Fisher, 41, was fired Feb. 8 after posting a 40-96 record in parts of two seasons. The Knicks were the NBA's second-worst team during Fisher's first season (17-65) but were in the playoff hunt at 22-22 this season before things fell apart. Knicks President Phil Jackson, who hired Fisher immediately after his former player's career ended, made the move in favor of Kurt Rambis after the team lost nine of 10 games.
"Some of the onus is on the players," Jackson said, per ESPN.com. "It's a lot easier to fire a coach than 15 players. Unfortunately, it's not always the coach."
Following Fisher's firing, there were reports indicating Knicks officials were unhappy with his off-court behavior. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported the Barnes incident put Fisher on a "slippery slope" toward his dismissal. Wojnarowski noted Fisher "lost the moral high ground inside Madison Square Garden, lost a measure of gravitas as a leader of men."
Of the two involved, Barnes has been the one unable to let the incident go. He was fined by the NBA for making "inappropriate" comments about Fisher in January, and the Memphis Grizzlies forward seemed to take pleasure in his rival's demise.
Fisher, who has largely avoided public comment, finally gave his side on what happened in the Cauldron piece:
I don't know what was going through Matt's mind that day in October when he showed up unannounced at Gloria's house and started swinging. I didn't retaliate. No one who was there did anything but try to get him to calm down, particularly because Matt and Gloria's children were present. There was no fight.
Fisher said "nothing more" happened. He also insinuated it was Barnes who leaked the incident to the media:
Then suddenly, the story of a “fight” leaked to the media. I’ll let you speculate on who leaked it and why, and the nature of their character. My reputation speaks for itself.
I know I’m not perfect. I’m human and flawed. I’ve failed. I have shortcomings. Everybody does. That being said, I’ve been in the NBA and the public eye for 20 years. Plenty of people know me well, and they know my true character. I would not have been allowed to lead the teams I led without the character and integrity I possess.
As it stands, Fisher appears to be on the public offensive trying to improve his reputation. It's an understandable move. His short stint in New York was an unmitigated failure, and his spiraling public reputation makes it unlikely another team would give him a chance at this point. Fisher's best move might be to find a short-term broadcasting gig before trying to return to the sideline.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.