DEREK Fisher finally opened up about his short, inglorious stint as coach of the New York Knicks almost a year after he got dismissed, believing the team did so much more with a lot less during his time in charge.
"We were able to take a team that wasn't as talented as the team they have now, and we were much better and much further along than this group that they have now because the foundation was being laid," Fisher told Bleacher Report on Monday (Tuesday, Manila time).
After a 23-31 start last season, Fisher was fired by Knicks president Phil Jackson on Feb. 8, 2016. This season’s Knicks are 21-28 prior to Tuesday's game in Washington, despite the offseason additions of new coach Jeff Hornacek and former NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
In fact, the Knicks have been struggling since the last week December, losing 15 of their 20 games, as they dealt with plenty of off-court distractions from the drama surrounding top guns Carmelo Anthony and Rose, to injuries to rising star Kristaps Porzingis.
Fisher noted that despite his 40-96 win-loss card as coach, much of the progress they’ve made as a team didn’t reflect in their record. And he rued that the team officials didn’t allow him to see the development plan through.
"That's different than just trying to coach basketball -- and it takes longer. That's the part that you can't measure in wins and losses either,” Fisher said. “That's what we were doing the best at."
Still, his short-lived stint as Knicks coach wasn’t spared from controversy. In fact, Fisher admits he has been affected that all the positive he was doing with the Knicks was ‘overshadowed by actually inaccurate opinion about a personal matter’ — a prolonged confrontation with former Lakers teammate Matt Barnes involving Barnes' ex-wife whom he was dating that garnered much publicity.
After Jackson’s first choice, Steve Kerr, was signed by the Golden State Warriors, the former LA Lakers point guard was hired by his legendary former coach to a five-year deal but was not able to last two seasons.
"It was strange to me that it was cut short prior to really seeing it all the way through," said Fisher, who admitted it was difficult trying to implement Jackson’s wishes to apply the triangle offense in the rebuilding Knicks.
"One of the challenges for all of us was we were in the basketball department under the umbrella of Phil Jackson and who he was and who he is and what he was able to do as coach and leader. Then [when you're] asking me as a head coach in a sense not to create the same results but take the same system or way of playing and try and teach these guys how to play it — and utilize it in similar ways as when he taught it — I think at times it was more challenging for our players to really understand, 'Who am I committing myself to? Who am I selling myself to? Who am I running through the brick wall for?'" he added.
“They don’t teach ninth-grade algebra the same way they used to teach ninth-grade algebra.”
The neophyte coach had a rocky first season with the Knicks, which ended the 2014-15 season with a 17-65 record, but was confident with the development of then-rookie Porzingis heading into the next year. But what also began as a successful relationship when both first teamed up with the Lakers turned sour quick due to differences in their time together in New York.
"We both didn't know exactly what we were doing," Fisher said. "Being the head coach is not like playing. Being president is not like being the head coach. That's one of the reasons why we didn't quite complete our meshing and blending of talents and thoughts, because those two positions are not always aligned."