From everything we know about Derek Fisher he's a leader among men. Kobe Bryant once called Fisher the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers during their time in there together. Members of the Oklahoma City Thunder said Fisher's leadership was priceless. From all accounts, Fisher has always been a coach on the floor. However, an Oklahoma City source warns that players may tune out Fisher because he's long-winded.
Derek Fisher has been looked at as a well-respected veteran presence in the Oklahoma City Thunder locker rooms since joining the team. He gained that reputation not only from his poise under pressure but also from his championship experience and from the way he commands the room when he gives speeches to his teammates.
There's little doubt that his 18 years of NBA experience, his closeness with Phil Jackson and championship rings will garner Fisher the respect of New York Knicks players. However an Oklahoma City (OKC) source believes he'll have to change his communication style now that he's a head coach.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that the OKC source claims Fisher will have to reduce his customary chatter while patrolling the sidelines.
Fisher’s speech-making skills are good for dreary lockout meetings and introductory press conferences. But this is what one Thunder insider told me during the conference finals:
“The thing that worries me about Derek as a coach is it’s one thing to give speeches as a player because it’s unique,” the source said. “But the players don’t want to hear long speeches from the coach every day during the season. Players may roll their eyes. Hopefully, Phil will guide him there.’’
Here's the thing. Sure, there may be a few guys who laugh Fisher off as a first-time coach. However, those same guys know that Fisher is also Jackson's right hand man and to cross Fisher means you're crossing the boss.
Additionally, everyone is playing for their jobs. The young guys like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Iman Shumpert are playing to thrive in their new roles in the triangle offense and to prove they are part of New York's future and not just trade bate.
Veteran's on expiring deals are playing to earn that next pay day. For Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire, they know their next long-term deal could be their last.
Any former teammates of Fisher's who have a hard time with the transition of him as their coach instead of their teammate will be put in check quickly by Jackson. Most of them know they are here to help the program move along faster and are getting second and third shots. They don't want to mess up a good thing.
The bottom line is, maybe Fisher can be long winded. Maybe he was just like that as a player trying to be a leader in the locker room even with a reduced role. Maybe he's just like that with the media.
The fact is, he's a first time head coach and will have growing pains like anyone else. That doesn't lessen his knowledge, his championship pedigree or the message he puts forth. In fact, he could be very short and precise with his messages as a head coach. No one knows because he's never done it before.
What we do know is that Fisher has a future in New York. If players decide they want to tune him out there's a really good chance they won't share that kind of job security.