Fisher has been let go as the Knicks underperform. Kurt Rambis will take over, but can he bring this group to the playoffs?
In a surprising move, the Phil Jackson-led New York Knicks have fired their head coach, ex-player Derek Fisher, in his second year and in the midst of a sizable skid. While it is a shock to see Jackson cut bait on his assumed protégé so soon, it is clear that this is the proper direction for the Knicks, as they realize this rebuild will be shorter than they had previously anticipated.
Fisher was allegedly fired due to a combination of lack of player development and lack of development as a coach himself, outside of motivational speeches, which have always been his strong suit. Furthermore, some within the organization viewed Fisher’s late summer conflict with Matt Barnes as suspect, and many felt that trust had been breached.
But now that the decision is final. It has been announced by the team that Kurt Rambis will finish out the season in a redemption attempt after flaming out in magnificent fashion in Minnesota. There are only two things left to discuss: Whether the Knicks will alter their course towards the playoffs, and who will likely succeed Rambis at the close of the season.
However, with the Knicks off for a week for the All-Star break after Tuesday’s game with the Washington Wizards, we will have to hold off judgment on Rambis, and thus the Knicks’ playoff chances, at least for the time being. There is no way to know how Rambis will adjust to his new job, and how the players will adjust to their new coach. However, with Carmelo Anthony’s knee continuing to pain him, the outlook is not as peachy as it was at the beginning of the season.
In terms of replacement coaches, it is widely expected that Phil Jackson will go back to his roots, as he did with Fisher. He loves to search for an ex-player turned coach that has experience in the triangle. As such, two strong candidates that come to mind are Brian Shaw and Luke Walton. However, Fisher just proved that having a “Phil Jackson triangle pedigree” does not automatically make you a good coach.
Thus, it would be better for Jackson to kick the tires on two much more well-known candidates, both of whom have been itching for the New York Knicks head coaching position for a long time. Namely, these include broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy and ex-coach of the Chicago Bulls Tom Thibodeau. Van Gundy’s record as a head coach is 430-318, and Thibodeau’s is 255-139.
While Van Gundy’s track record is well established, and he is one of the more well-respected inactive coaches out there, Thibodeau established himself as one of the league’s elite coaches as little as a year ago. His grating demeanor and demanding coaching style eventually created enough friction to oust him from Chicago, very much in the same way that Jim Harbaugh was ousted from San Francisco. However, just as in Harbaugh’s case, no one is debating Thibodeau’s coaching genius and acumen. Just as Harbaugh has been a boon to the Michigan Wolverines, so will Tom Thibodeau be to the team that hires him.
Thibs has been biding his time, waiting for the right coaching vacancy to open, and the rest of the league waits with bated breath. The New York Knicks have long been linked to Thibodeau since his days as an assistant as his most ideal landing spot. This is a union that needs to happen. Thibs would instill a defensive philosophy absent from this Knicks team, while getting the most out of each rotation player. People malign him for playing Derrick Rose so many minutes, but most of his players held up just fine.
He may not be perfect, but Tom Thibodeau is the best candidate out there for the Knicks, and they would be wise to go outside the box, or “triangle,” and hire him.
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