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NBA PM: Phil Jackson Explains Derek Fisher Firing

Phil Jackson explains why the Knicks decided to fire Derek Fisher and where the team goes from here.

Alex Kennedy profile picture
Updated 11 months ago on
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Phil Jackson Explains Derek Fisher Firing

The New York Knicks stole some headlines less than 24 hours after the Denver Broncos’ Super Bowl win over the Carolina Panthers by deciding to fire their head coach, Derek Fisher. Kurt Rambis has been the named the team’s interim head coach.

The move was somewhat surprising, given that Fisher was just a year and a half into the five-year, $25 million contract he inked with the Knicks last summer. However, the team had struggled under Fisher, going 40-96 including losses in nine of their last 10 games. After a strong start to the season, New York is currently 23-31 – putting them in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.

While Rambis will coach the team for now, the two front-runners to land the permanent job are Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton and former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, both of whom have ties to Knicks president Phil Jackson.

After the coaching change was announced, Jackson explained why the decision was made. During his press conference, he cited a number of issues including the team’s recent struggles, a lack of communication when it came to implementing certain strategies and a divide among Fisher’s coaching staff.

“It’s time for us to make a change,” Jackson said, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Turn this team around and move forward and get some wins and keep going down the road we started here at the beginning of the year.

“We had a lot of what I consider standing around, one-on-one kind of situational stuff, in the game, where I like to see movement, ball movement, player movement that brings out the best in the team. I think that could be one of the standards we’d like to see happen.”

While Jackson tried to be more involved, it seems he felt some of his ideas weren’t being utilized by Fisher. He also held himself somewhat accountable, blaming himself for not preparing Fisher enough for the job.

“We had a line of communication; a lot of times it was one way and I understand that,” he said. “A lot of times it was a conversation written through e-mail and things like that and a lot of times, he’d send back with a short note like, ‘Got it,’ or, ‘Will get on it,’ whatever.

“What sometimes happened is what you wanted to get done doesn’t get done in a situation where you’re teaching, you’re coaching, you’re drilling players. So that’s where I think maybe my part is that I may not have communicated enough in that area and actually told him in our [firing meeting], ‘I may not have mentored you as well as I could have.’”

According to Bondy, there was a divide between the staff’s more experienced coaches (Rambis and Jim Cleamons) and the younger assistants (Brian Keefe and Joshua Longstaff). Jackson hinted at this during his press conference as well.

“I was able to surround [Fisher] with some very experienced coaches, and he had support staff, that was really important too. If he didn’t take advantage of it, maybe that’s part of it, too,” Jackson said. “Kurt, Jim Cleamons, some of the guys that have experienced, detailed experience. Derek hired some young guys who have helped him, have great work ethic and kind of meet the standard that he likes. But there wasn’t a consensus in our staff and we decided we needed to have a real good consensus in our staff, interchanging of ideas and communication.”

When asked about potential candidates like Walton and Shaw as well as highly regarded free agent coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Mark Jackson, Phil did make it pretty clear that he wants to bring someone in who he has experience with and who can run his system.

“Someone has to match the style about the way we do things,” Jackson said. “And there’s a certain style that I have that I think that works and have found to work before. I don’t know if all those people measure up to that because I don’t know them enough. But that’s an important aspect to it. We’ll find that type of person.”

“The system of basketball is what’s important. We’re talking about a system. This happens to be the system that we’re familiar with so it’s not paramount, but it’s important. … Every team is [equipped to run the triangle]. Good, sound offense incorporates all types of players. I know there was a bit about [Rajon] Rondo the other day saying the triangle is not good for him and it was, to me, laughable because all players can fit in a sound offense.”

It remains to be seen what the Knicks will do next and who will take over as Fisher’s long-term replacement.

Thomas, Aldridge Win Player of the Week Award

The Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas and the San Antonio Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, Feb. 1 through Sunday, Feb. 7.

Thomas led the Celtics to a 4-0 week, including a road victory against the Eastern Conference-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.  He averaged 20.3 points (12th in the East), 7.0 assists (tied for fourth in the conference) and 4.5 rebounds.  On Feb. 7, the Celtics’ point guard capped his week by recording 22 points, nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and only one turnover as Boston defeated the Sacramento Kings 128-119 for its ninth victory in 10 games.  Thomas, a first-time NBA All-Star selection, will appear in the 65th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 14 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Aldridge, who was also selected to the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, sparked the Spurs to a 4-0 week.  He averaged 26.0 points (tied for seventh in the NBA), 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots (tied for fourth in the West).  He shot 59.7 percent from the field and 90.9 percent from the free throw line.  Aldridge scored at least 26 points in three of four games, including a season-high 36-point performance to go with six rebounds and three blocks in a 110-97 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Feb. 3.

Other nominees for the NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Atlanta’s Jeff Teague, Charlotte’s Marvin Williams, Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan and Utah’s Gordon Hayward.

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Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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