The Knicks have hired Derek Fisher as head coach, the team announced. The 39-year-old, who retires from his 18-year playing career to take the gig, is taking a five-year, $25MM deal, the same terms that New York’s first choice for coach, Steve Kerr, signed for when he spurned the Knicks for the Warriors. Fisher will likely hire Bill Cartwright and Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis for his staff.
“Today marks the next step of this journey for the New York Knicks franchise as we name Derek to lead the team as its head coach.” Knicks president Phil Jackson said. “Our relationship began 15 years ago, and over time, it has come clear to me that he and I can form a great partnership once again.”
Fisher has been considered the front-runner for the Knicks’ job for a few weeks now but nothing could be safely assumed after Jackson & Co. whiffed on Kerr. Kerr seemed like a lock to take the position earlier this offseason but he shocked everyone by accepting a five-year, $25MM offer from the Warriors instead.
In Fisher, Jackson has landed another former pupil without any coaching experience. That lack of experience, strangely enough, is part of what appealed to Jackson. The Zen Master has been looking for a young, malleable coach who will be open to his instruction since an NBA retread would be less open to doing things Jackson’s way. It has been widely speculated that Jackson would instruct whatever coach he hired to run his beloved triangle offense.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, who is a free agent this summer, was said to be in favor of the club hiring Kerr as its head coach. It remains to be seen how Melo feels about Fisher and whether he’ll be enough to convince him to sign a new deal or opt in for his final season. If Anthony opts in, he’ll earn $23.333MM next year, which would mean more money in the short term. That might not be a risk that he wants to take after recently celebrating the big 3-0, however. If Carmelo wants a big, cushy deal with another club, this summer is probably his best opportunity.
It’s certainly conceivable that the likable Fisher could appeal to Melo and maybe other free agents down the line. Fisher has a very strong bond with Thunder star Kevin Durant, who becomes a free agent in the summer of 2016. Of course, that’s not the key consideration for the Knicks at this juncture, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind. Fisher was also linked to the Lakers’ vacancy, though in recent weeks it started to sound as though they weren’t all that interested.
The deal demonstrates the quickly escalating value of first-time coaches. Jason Kidd was elated to land the Nets’ job this time last year, but he might be feeling a little shortchanged now. Kerr and Fisher have each netted $25MM contracts but Kidd signed with Brooklyn for $10.5MM over four years.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Chuck Myron contributed to this post. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News was the first to report that Fisher and the Knicks were nearing agreement (via Twitter) and that they had struck a deal. Isola’s report on the agreement also includes the news that Cartwright and Rambis would likely join the Knicks as assistant coaches under Fisher. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported the contract terms (on Twitter). Bleacher Reports’ Howard Beck provided additional detail (Twitter links).