If you’re an NBA fan who appreciates how well Brad Stevens has the Boston Celtics playing, you’re not alone.
New York Knicks coach Derek Fisher is also a big fan of Stevens’ work.
Fisher mentioned Stevens’ named fairly frequently over the course of the season when talking about coaches he appreciates. There are aspects of Stevens’ approach that Fisher wants to emulate.
“I think Brad kind of has that feel where most of the work is already done and he’s allowing the guys to go out and play the game,” Fisher said of Stevens’ “quiet” sideline demeanor. “That’s kind of the way I feel. That will be my style going forward.”
No two coaches are the same, but the Knicks would be fortunate if Fisher made the kind of jump between his first and second seasons that Stevens has.
Under Stevens’ guidance, the Celtics made the playoffs in a season in which they were supposed to tank. They have played three mostly competitive games against the second-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers.
Boston’s performance is widely seen as a testament to Stevens’ ability to keep his players focused amid a season full of roster-altering trades.
Late in the season, Stevens noted how much more comfortable he’d become in his second year on an NBA bench.
“I feel 10 times better than I did last year at this time sitting here as far as feel for the game itself,” Stevens said. “… I knew that there were going to be a lot of tough nights (in his first season) but hopefully I can get a lot better at this. Like anybody else, if you don’t think you’re that good at it, you just strive to be as good as you can be.”
Fisher had his fair share of tough nights in his first season. That will happen when you’re 17-65. There’s no way to tell what kind of coach Fisher will be in the future, but he seems to be the type of person who will do whatever he can to improve.
Earlier this week, Knicks president Phil Jackson praised Fisher for creating a framework for success in his first season.
“Derek did a really good job of implementing, teaching, setting up a kind of methodology that we want to work from -- players come, they work, they do their business professionally, they shoot, they lift, they condition, they rehab, they regenerate,” Jackson said. “The mental aspect is still being worked on with a lot of our players about how to get the professional attitude about this job. Derek carried that message forward with our players, the idea that we play team basketball.”
That sounds like a lot of Zen nonsense from Jackson -- an attempt to put a positive spin on an awful season.
But if the Knicks are able to turn things around and Fisher develops into a solid coach, his first season may be seen as a blessing in disguise because he was able to learn on the job without having pressure to win.
Make no mistake, the expectations will be raised for Fisher in his second season. If the Knicks add talent in free agency and the draft and fail to make a significant jump in Year 2, fingers will start pointing at Fisher.
But if Fisher makes the kind of progression in his second season that Stevens did, he and the Knicks could be just fine.
Question: Do you think Derek Fisher will ultimately be a good coach or did Phil make a mistake in hiring him?