Derek Fisher says that building a winning team and creating a winning culture in New York is challenging because “there’s so many different things pulling at you.”
Fisher didn’t single out any one person by name, including Phil Jackson, but the former Knicks head coach, in an interview with the Associated Press, made it clear that trying to implement a winning program inside Madison Square Garden and getting everyone to pull in the same direction is the toughest part of the job.
“(The Knicks have) obviously had a tough season for multiple reasons,” Fisher told the AP. “It’s never just one reason and quite frankly there’s always been too much focus on what they’re running offensively or what we were doing offensively, when that’s just one aspect of trying to be successful as a team.
“The biggest job I think for any of the people that are there is continuing to chip away at establishing winning habits and winning culture regardless of X’s and O’s, and I’m sure that’s what Jeff (Hornacek) is trying to figure out with this group, but it’s tough when there’s so many different things pulling at you.”
Jackson fired Fisher 13 months ago after Fisher went 40-96 in his first head coaching job, which includes a franchise-worst 17-65 record in his rookie season. Fisher, however, had the backing of his players who appreciated the fact that he was trying to eliminate the triangle offense and show the players that he, and not Jackson, was coaching the team.
Fisher’s reluctance to run the triangle upset Jackson and, according to a source, the two eventually stopped communicating and would only exchange text messages.
“Things are not always great early when you’re trying to figure it all out as a team and as a coach,” Fisher added, “and so I like the struggles and the adversities and continuing to work at trying to figure all those things out. And most importantly to me, coaching puts you in a place where you can help other people be the best versions of themselves. That’s really what leadership is about to me, is serving the needs of others.”
Fisher is working as a studio analyst for Spectrum SportsNet’s Lakers coverage and is also working for Turner Sports. In fact, Fisher will be an analyst for Monday’s Knicks-Clippers game in Los Angeles.
Fisher will see first-hand a team under Hornacek that has underachieved this season and may be in full-blown tank mode. Prior to Tuesday’s win over Indiana, Hornacek essentially waved the white flag by admitting that the playoffs are an unrealistic goal this season.
“The playoffs may not be in reach but this could especially for some of our other guys who might get some time show what they really can do and build something for next year,” Hornacek said.
Coincidentally, Fisher was criticized in his second season for saying in a radio interview that the club should not be disappointed if they don’t reach the postseason.
“No. Disappointed in what?” Fisher said at the time. “We’re a developing team with a ton of new players. … We have to be reasonable about who we are and where we are and accept what is and not get caught up in what we should be and allow other people to define what our success is.”
During the offseason, Jackson hired Hornacek and added three veteran players — Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee — with the idea that the Knicks would compete for a playoff spot.
And yet by mid-March, the Knicks need a minor miracle just to be the eighth seed. Therefore, Jackson and Hornacek might be better served to rest some of their key players down the stretch and improve the Knicks’ odds of moving up in the NBA draft lottery.
Kristaps Porzingis suffered a thigh injury on Tuesday and may not be available for Thursday’s home game against Brooklyn. The Knicks could conceivably rest Carmelo Anthony in select road games, although Anthony said two weeks ago that his preference is to play.
Rose is in a contract year and wants to play as many games as possible to enhance his value before he hits the free-agent market.
As for Fisher, he is hoping to get another crack at a head coaching job. Considering how the Knicks have regressed in some areas since his departure, Fisher may get that chance sooner than he thinks.