Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Philling Out

This is why the New York Knicks can't have nice things.

Which is not to say having Derek Fisher as your coach isn't a nice thing. We honestly have no idea if having Derek Fisher as your coach is a nice thing or not, because Derek Fisher has never been a coach before, just the same what Phil Jackson has never been a front office executive and grand poobah before. It is entirely possible that either or both of those moves could work out fabulously. 

But that's down the road. Right now, things are a little awkward, because the whole Derek Fisher hiring is looking a little bit high school. Again, nothing against Mr. Fisher, who's been a remarkable player and may well be a remarkable coach. It's just that the infallible Phil Jackson whiffed on his first choice to replace Mike Woodson, losing Steve Kerr to the Golden State Warriors.

Let's think about that for a second. The Knicks, Madison Square Garden and all, Phil Jackson and all, New York bright lights and hoops history and you name it, lost out on the coach they wanted to Golden State, a franchise with all the cachet of an In-and-Out Burger, a franchise that had just fired its most successful coach in recent memory, a franchise with an owner widely regarded as a titanic pain in the ass. 

That's the team that made a guy say "no" to Phil Jackson and the Knicks. And later the accounts came out that maybe they'd kind of lowballed Kerr, and maybe there was a perception that Phil would really be doing the coaching so that any success would be Phil's and any failure would be Kerr's, and, well. the long and the short of it is that the Knicks (and Phil) acted like the Knicks (and Phil) and whiffed.

Which led to their second choice, Derek Fisher, who was still playing when Kerr took his clipboards and went to San Francisco. Except they weren't the only team sniffing around Fisher. The Lakers were mentioned as circling, as Fisher would apparently be acceptable as coach to His Emperor Kobe I (seeing as how Phil was off the board). 

Of course, the speculation ended tonight. Fisher signed with the Knicks: 5 years, $25M. But if you look at it right, the whole thing looks dangerously high school. Get jilted by your first choice, rush in to ask your second choice before someone else can ask them - is this a high profile coaching gig or the junior prom? Either way, though, it's a consequence of the way the Knicks have done business since getting Jackson's name on the dotted line. Previously, he called and the talent came running. That - even with the star power of MSG and New York added to it - is no longer the case. Phil can't just roll out the balls and expect everything to go his way, and it coast him - and the Knicks - their first choice as coach.

Now, maybe that will be a good thing. Maybe a swing and a miss will get Phil to realize he needs to earn some of his authority anew. Maybe Derek Fisher will turn out to be a better coach than Steve Kerr - it's entirely possible. But for right now, it looks like the Knicks were caught flatfooted when their old magic didn't work, and their next move has the faint whiff of being a scramble. And if Phil can't convince Carmelo Anthony to stay, well then, it may just be open season on the Zen Master, and everything he thought he could accomplish.

Just rolling out the balls isn't good enough any more. Not even for Phil.
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