Hamilton: With or without Carmelo Anthony, Derek Fisher is the right choice

Moke Hamilton, NBA Analyst

As the 41 years worth of dust continues to accrue on the trophy case at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks and their fans can at least be assured of one thing.

Derek FIsher announced as CoachPhil Jackson made a wise decision entrusting Derek Fisher with the head coaching reigns of your beloved ‘bockers.

And that is true whether or not Carmelo Anthony ultimately decides to spend the remainder of his prime wearing a Knicks uniform or not.

Traditionally, the man with the crossover and the superhuman vertical leap gets the accolades, cash and credit. But once upon a time, while the general manager of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, Jerry Krause uttered a phrase that stuck with Jordan for the remainder of his career.

It is as true today as it was back then, even if Krause was misquoted.

“Players don’t win championships,” Krause was quoted as saying. “Organizations do.”

In many ways, Krause’s statement led to the fracturing of a perennial champion and caused Jordan himself to harbor resentment toward the organization for many years thereafter.

But Krause was correct. And today, finally, the Knicks can say that they have an organization.

Even during the days of Dave Checketts, Ernie Grunfeld, Pat Riley and Patrick Ewing, individual agendas and a lack of unity and continuity plagued the Knicks. Since then, through the incompetent administrations of Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas and even the more aptly-run regimes of Donnie Walsh and Glen Grunwald, the Knicks were always missing the most necessary ingredient for a championship contender: a unified front office that was unequivocally married to and built its organization around its head coach.

But here and now, today, one of the things that secretly fuels Phil Jackson is the desire to put a bow on his basketball legacy. He has won 11 championship rings as a head coach and he has two more as a player.

Pat Riley—the man who is Jackson’s closest comparison at this point—won one championship as a player – as a member of the 1972 Los Angeles Lakers. He would eventually coach the franchise to five more championships before winning three more with the Heat.

Phil_Jackson_3_croppedNo matter how you count, Jackson’s 13 rings are more than Riley’s nine, but Riley is the first North American sports figure to win championships as a player, coach and executive. And you know what? He may have never accomplished what he has without noticing and understanding that Erik Spoelstra contained all of the necessary qualities of a successful head coach.

Those who have worked closely with Fisher and a few that have had the opportunity to play with him over the years have mostly positive things to say about him, his work ethic, his demeanor, and his leadership ability.

It is those qualities that will make him an effective head coach.

With Jackson by his side—teaching him, guiding him, showing him—Fisher will have the opportunity to learn and develop under arguably the greatest coach of all-time. More importantly, he will have the time and opportunity to develop and become the next Doc Rivers. Fisher has a similar passion and sincerity about him that will connect with his players.

At least initially, Fisher, like Jason Kidd in Brooklyn, will struggle with the everyday rigors of being a head coach. He will make mistakes with defensive assignments and adjustments. He will lose patience with some of the young gunslingers and will undoubtedly have to adjust to making the transition from being viewed by his players as a peer to their superior officer.

But Fisher will work hard and he will get it right. He will learn and grow under Jackson and will eventually install a triangle in New York, even if it takes two to three years to build out a roster fully capable of running it.

At the end of the day, that is the main point. Jackson and Fisher are members of the New York Knicks. They are here for the long haul and they are here together.

They will sink or swim together and they will win or lose together. Of that we can be certain. We can also be certain of one other thing: there is no guarantee of success in professional sports, especially in the NBA. In this league, one player taking his talents elsewhere can cause a seismic shift in the league’s pecking order and power balance.

So, if by some strange chance, Carmelo Anthony does end up forming a “Big Four” in Miami with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it will be fair to wonder if Jackson and Fisher will both complete their five-year contracts with the Knicks without winning a championship in this city.

If Anthony remains with the Knicks, there is no guarantee that a triangle built around him will flourish. It is not a given that he can be the captain of the structured and cerebral offense the way that Jordan or Kobe Bryant once were.

But at the end of the day, winning starts at the top. From Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra in Miami to Sam Presti and Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City. From Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle in Dallas to R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. In the NBA, winning begins with a unified front office and a clear vision for the future. The Knicks now have that.

Once upon a time, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni had the mutual respect and appreciation for one another’s talents, but Walsh’s decision to hire D’Antoni was made through the lens of making New York an attractive destination for LeBron James. Walsh undertook a monumental task and executed the best strategy possible to achieve his primary objective, but the truth of the matter is that the logic was faulty.

Coaches make players, not vice versa. Coaches should choose players and coaches should mold players. Not vice versa.

In Miami, through their most trying times, Spoelstra has challenged James and held him accountable. Spoelstra helped James discover his weaknesses and conquer them. Spoelstra refused to coddle James and allow him to dictate the culture in and around the Heat. Despite some tumultuous times, in the end, Spoelstra garnered the respect and admiration of the greatest player of his generation. The respect has reached the point where James routinely compliments Spoelstra for good decision-making and substitutions made during games and in press conferences afterward.

During the 2014 NBA Finals in Miami, James attracted attention by letting it be known that he considered Spoelstra the team’s boss and leader and that, like a good soldier, he followed Spoelstra’s directives and orders even when he didn’t necessarily agree with them.

Traditionally, that has not been the type of culture that the Knicks have built. Now, finally, that will change.

As the head coach in this league has become more and more disposable over the past few years, the constant with a winning and successful organization has been unity.

If nothing else, coming from the front office, the Knicks have that.

And although there is no guarantee of success, the Knicks are finally doing things the correct way.

It’s been a long 41 years, but as the Knicks attempt to move forward and recapture past glory, they can finally say that there is a plan and a vision.

What a welcomed change.




265 comments
Brian Webster
Brian Webster

Maybe Riley and LeBron are in this together just to get Wade and Bosh to opt out and then not resign either of them. That way LeBron and Melo can both get their money and play together. Bosh and Wade should be smart and opt in.

NoVaCaInE
NoVaCaInE

LeBron was a -21. Good for worst on the team!

NoVaCaInE
NoVaCaInE

The media is not a happy bunch right now lol

theking
theking

Still no one talks about if Duncan and parker hit those free throws this series is over they would have been swept

rico
rico

Note that neither the spurs nor the heat run the "triangle".

theking
theking

melo like ... nvm lmaoooo


instagram going crazy on LeBron right now I can imagine twitter

madskills
madskills

How can Miami put together a big 4 when Wade is just about finished and Bosh can barely get involved on the current Heat team?

orlando_knickfan
orlando_knickfan

Wade salary

2014: 20mil

2015: 21

Wade will not take a 7 mil paycut with those knees

madskills
madskills

Toney Douglas still throwing up bricks I see.

theking
theking

watch the LeBron to the knicks rumors pick up

NoVaCaInE
NoVaCaInE

So Toney Douglas isn't getting a ring?

Will Bosh cry?

madskills
madskills

Dear LeBron, one ring in NY would've been worth about four or five in Miami.

Nicolas Grant
Nicolas Grant

NOW I CAN SAY IT. HEAT FANS LEAVING IN 3..2..1.    lol

rgm891
rgm891

Beat them in Texas. Make it even more worthwhile to see them sulk. Awesome!!!!!!

theking
theking

crowd left halfway through the third quarter

jax13
jax13

And a new shooting guard?

jax13
jax13

Forget melo, the heat need a post defender/rebounder

madskills
madskills

Rumor is floating around that there are issues in the Heat locker room after the story leaked that LeBron wants to play with Melo. That's why Bosh felt the need to come out and say a big 4 is unlikely.

theking
theking

@Brian Webster  I don't think they would do they they are very loyal to wade if anything they would give him more years at a less salary

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@madskills Bosh's involvement on the offense will be limited to the amount of playmaking LBJ does as the primary ball handler.

In Toronto, Bosh was great at the P&P, P&R, and facing up slower PF's. In Miami it's very rare to see him isolated and to have him create for others.

And that's on Spo as well. He's got 3 great scorers in different positions and only one is used to create shots for others, when all 3 should be doing it.

You see SA and you have Parker, Duncan, Manu, and Diaw passing non stop to create shots for each other. If I read right, they passed the ball 380 times tonight.... That's insane.

Tony Fonseca
Tony Fonseca

@newyork80.. great article. It gives hope that success times are ahead for the Knicks. Like Jerry Krause said, "organizations win championships, not players...

madskills
madskills

@orlando_knickfan Agreed, I don't see Wade opting out this summer. The only way I think he considers it is if the Heat gives him an extension for a few more years at a lower salary. That would be insane on the Heat's part.

rico
rico

They should, he should prove it here!

brookdon
brookdon

He would be skewered if he were a Knick and his team was playing this badly.

jax13
jax13

If bosh is unhappy, I could see him going to mavs

Brian Webster
Brian Webster

@theking Yeah maybe not Wade but he does look kind of shot. He probably should take a big pay cut based on level of play anyway.

theking
theking

@knega  its not. 2 rings is good I would take it but they made themselves look dum with the not 1 not 2 not 3 speech

rico
rico

I was there when the spurs swept the knicks for their trophy in 99?

Funny how the garden emptied out in like 4 minutes while the spurs were being crowned and celebrated at half court.

madskills
madskills

@theking @madskills If he would've signed with NY then Stat and Chandler probably wouldn't have even been there lol. Melo could've forced his way to the Knicks still and there you have it.

jax13
jax13

Not that it matters but he is from there n I just think he would be a good fit on that team. Did not hear it anywhere.....

theking
theking

@Mel Brown @madskills  he is from dallas so theres that


plus it has been reported that he wanted to be a 1 or 2 option he felt like he doesn't get any credit and he is right

rico
rico

I suspect Bosh goes to LA. He'd like to be featured and cash in on being Bosh, a very good player, team guy, eloquent man too. I say LA.

jax13
jax13

Heat are playing like it.

sanza
sanza

@rico spurs not swept the knicks I think, we won 1 game as long as I remember

madskills
madskills

@jax13 Just look at the body language. They don't even look interested and this is the finals. Something is definitely up. Bosh probably made that statement because he doesn't plan on taking a pay cut to make a big 4 happen.

VerySilentJay
VerySilentJay

@madskills @jax13 That can easily be because they're little b!tches being outplayed and their fraudulent fans are letting them have it.

jax13
jax13

Lol that sounds more realistic