MIAMI - Gregg Popovich joked that Derek Fisher is "crazy" for jumping into the coaching profession, but he thinks he will do a good job guiding the Knicks.
The Spurs coach had many battles with Fisher when he played for the Lakers, and had his heart broken by him as well. But Popovich said with Phil Jackson in Fisher's corner he should have no problem making the transition from player to coach.
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"I think he's got a great opportunity to have a really good career," Popovich said before the Spurs played the Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals last night. "He's crazy to do it. Coaching in this league is crazy. He obviously wants to do it and he's got a mentor in Phil that's going to help him be successful, help set the stage for him, give him a comfort zone.
"He's obviously a very intelligent individual who understands the game, knows how to play, knows what it takes to win and lose. There's no reason why he can't be really successful."
Fisher was introduced as the Knicks' new coach yesterday after an 18-year career that featured five NBA championships with the Lakers and one memorable shot against the Spurs -- a turnaround, buzzer-beating game-winner in the 2004 Western Conference semifinals.
Popovich is probably happy he doesn't have to deal with Fisher the player anymore. But he called the profession crazy because of how time-consuming it is and the lack of stability. Popovich, of course, is a rarity, as he's coached the Spurs since 1996.
"It's a pretty volatile environment," he said. "You can't control as many things as you'd like to control. There's a lot of travel; that probably gets old after a while. I think it's not being in control of a lot of things that hurts a lot of coaches.
"We're bounced around quite a bit. It can be a tough way to earn a living and tough on the family and that sort of thing. But it depends on the organization, too. That's why I say Derek's in a good spot if he's got Phil there to help make everything pretty sane."
Heat forward Shane Battier is retiring after this season, but his next job will be as a college basketball analyst. But he kidded that seeing Fisher's contract might make him reassess.
"Five years at $25 million will make anyone think differently about their future choices," Battier said. "Everyone knew that D-Fish was going to be a coach. You could tell that Steve Kerr was itching to get back into the game from the booth. There are certain guys, you just know, are going to find their way to a bench someday."
Battier spent much of his career in the Western Conference and played against Fisher a lot over the years. He said not all players become successful coaches, but he thinks Fisher will be one.
"Coaching is so much more than just knowing the game," Battier said. "If that were the case, a lot more people who played the game would be successful as coaches. There have been a lot of coaches who know the game and played the game at a high level but it just doesn't translate to coaching.
"Coaching is dealing with personalities. It's dealing with schematic changes. There is so much that goes into coaching. Not just having a feel for the game. But I think D-Fish will do well. Just like I think Jason Kidd will do well. And Steve Kerr will do well. But there is no way you can look at a guy and say, for sure, that guy has it all figured it out."
Battier called the NBA a "trend league" with more guys now going right from playing to coaching, and that it could be a good thing.
"It's a young man's game, no question," Battier said. "Owners are younger, GMs are younger. Players are younger. And so I think it behooves teams to have a younger coach to provide the energy. I'm not practicing age discrimination here. But it's a younger league."