New coach Derek Fisher wants to bring 'championship culture' back to Knicks
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GREENBURGH, N.Y. - This was the day Derek Fisher had been preparing for since he was 6 years old, and he made a strong first impression.
Introduced at a news conference Tuesday morning, Fisher spoke confidently about the Knicks' future with him at the helm, saying his goal is to "re-establish the championship culture that exists in this organization and this city."
Knicks president Phil Jackson tabbed a 39-year-old who has no experience as a coach. But although Fisher is only 10 days removed from his last game as a player with the Thunder, he scoffed at that issue, saying he's been working toward this for as long as he can remember.
"Basketball is a game that I am experienced in playing, understanding, leading in, guiding in, helping another group of people achieve the greatest gift in the world as a professional athlete -- and that's being a champion," Fisher said. "That, I have experience in, and that's the experience that I plan on sharing with these players, sharing with this organization."
An 18-year veteran, Fisher won five championships with the Lakers and established himself as a respected leader, elected by his peers as union president. Fisher said he learned as a youngster that he needed to think like a coach on the court, "and that is the only reason I stayed around the game."
Having previously discussed with Fisher the idea of one day becoming an NBA coach, Jackson turned his attention to his former Lakers point guard shortly after his first choice, Steve Kerr, last month chose to stay on the West Coast to become the Warriors' coach.
"I like the fact he's current with the players," Jackson said. "This is a generation that's a little different than the one I grew up with."
Fisher acknowledged that his strong personal ties to Jackson sped up his coaching clock, saying he might have attempted to play another season in the NBA or taken a year off if Jackson had not been in this position and seeking a coach.
But the Knicks weren't the only team intrigued by Fisher. He said the Lakers also recently reached out to "informally" gauge his interest in their position. He said he told them that out of respect for his relationship with Jackson, he would interview only if they were serious. Discussions with the Lakers never went further than that, Fisher said.
Days later, he flew to New York and agreed to a reported five-year, $25 million deal with the Knicks, and now he is faced with the many question marks and obstacles facing this team as it is currently constituted. At the top of the list is Carmelo Anthony's future.
Anthony can opt out of his contract to test free agency this summer. "We want him to be here," Fisher said, "but ultimately he has that choice."
And if Anthony does leave, Fisher echoed Jackson's public stance that the Knicks' success doesn't rely solely on Anthony's returning.
"As the coach I have to be prepared to coach the players we have," he said.
Fisher also indicated he will employ the triangle offense, which comes as no surprise considering who hired him. "I believe with the roster we have, we can utilize it," he said. "I believe in it."
Fisher and Jackson said they will need to figure out the specifics of their working relationship on the fly. Whether that includes Jackson taking an active role in practice remains to be seen, but neither seemed too worried. They know enough about each other to believe they'll make it work.
"We have a transition to make from being coach-player to now executive-coach, and that's a different relationship," Fisher said. "But I don't foresee a problem in having one of the greatest to do what you're trying to do want to come down and help you a little bit."
But those specifics will be worked out another day. Jackson wants Fisher to "decompress" a bit before jumping completely into the job. Fisher understands the reasoning behind that, but he also seemed excited about what's next for him in a career filled with unlikely highlights.
"It's like a movie," he said, "that somehow keeps getting better the longer it goes."
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.