Now that free agency has died down, we’re taking a look at where the Knicks currently stand position-by-position. Today, we look at the coaching.
New additions: Head coach Derek Fisher, associate head coach Kurt Rambis.
Gone: Mike Woodson.
Strengths: Fisher has championship experience as a player, earning five rings over the course of his career. As evidenced by his introductory press conference, Fisher is a very good communicator who was a solid leader as a player. He's tough and comes with intimate knowledge of personnel around the league having just played last season. Phil Jackson is banking on these skills to transfer over to the bench.
Potential concerns: Fisher has never coached before in his basketball life. He hasn’t had to draw up a play in crunch time with the game on the line, or try to match wits with another head coach, manage a rotation, make the right subs at the right time or delicately handle egos. The Knicks' health is always a concern, so Fisher will have to potentially manage Amar'e Stoudemire’s minutes. And he will be doing all of this under the New York microscope.
Biggest challenge: Besides learning how to coach on the fly, Fisher will also have the tough task of installing the triangle and teaching it to several players like Carmelo Anthony for the first time. It’s one thing if Jackson was teaching the triangle. But the Knicks will have a first-time coach installing the complicated system.
What they’re saying: “He’s a leader and a teacher,” GM Steve Mills said on MSG Network during summer league at Las Vegas. “He and our coaching staff -- Kurt Rambis -- they really spent a lot of time teaching. ... I’ve watched Derek communicate with the guys and get them focused on the offense and defensive concept. ... I think he is going to do a great job.”
Outlook: Unlike Jason Kidd did with the Nets, Fisher enters his first year coaching without enormous win-now expectations. The Knicks want to make the playoffs but their eye is on next summer, when they can surround Melo with serious help. Fisher has a year to learn the job and hone his coaching skills. He inherits the core of a roster that was an absolute mess last season on the court. How will Fisher handle his rotation? Will he start J.R. Smith or bring him off the bench as the sixth man? Who will Fisher start at center? Can he fit these current Knicks pieces into the triangle? What kind of coach will Fisher be? A players’ coach? A tough-minded, no-nonsense coach? A combination of both? How long will it take for him to find his voice and comfort zone? There are many questions to be answered.
Like Kidd experienced last season, Fisher will have his growing pains. It just remains to be seen how rocky those growing pains will be. Kidd got more comfortable and eventually turned the Nets around. There’s no reason to expect Fisher can’t transition from playing to coaching like Kidd. He has to maintain the respect of his players through any tough times and should be able to do so. And Fisher has the benefit of leaning on Jackson whenever he needs to as well.