Another summer, another freshly retired NBA player becomes the head coach of a Big Apple NBA franchise despite having no previous coaching experience. Last year it was Jason Kidd and the Brooklyn Nets, this year it's Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks. Only time will tell if Fisher stays with his team longer than Kidd did with his.
Born in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 9, 1974, Fisher played four years at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. Each season saw him lead the team in assists and steals, and as a senior he was named Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year. He finished his collegiate career ranked first or second in school history in several categories. The Los Angeles Lakers took him with the 24th overall pick in the 1996 draft.
Coaching legend Phil Jackson took over the Lakers in 1999 and guided them to three championships in his first three years. Fisher was the starting point guard on the 2001 and '02 championship teams. The Lakers returned to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five years in 2004, partly because of Fisher: left open, he made a jumper with 0.4 seconds left that gave the Lakers a one-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game Five of the Western Conference Finals and control of the series. Stunned Spurs coaches and fans initially refused to accept that the basket was legitimate, but the NBA later ranked it 18th on its "60 Greatest Playoff Moments" list. On paper, the Lakers would seemingly have an easy time against the Detroit Pistons in the Finals, but on the court it was a different story. After the teams split the first two games in Los Angeles, the Pistons won the next three on their home court to claim the championship. In July, free agent Fisher joined the Golden State Warriors.
Fisher averaged more than 13 points per game for the only time in his career in the 2005-06 season. In 2006, he became president of the National Basketball Players Association. The Warriors traded him to the Utah Jazz in exchange for three players in July of that year. He spent one season with the Jazz before being released in June 2007. Less than three weeks later he rejoined the Lakers. He was a started on their 2009 and '10 championship teams.
His successful second act in Los Angeles came to an end in March 2012 when the Lakers traded Fisher to the Houston Rockets and a 2014 first round draft pick. Four days later the Rockets waived him, and two days after that he signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In late November, he signed with the Dallas Mavericks, who waived him less than a month later.
Fisher rejoined the Thunder in February 2013. His rocky term as union president ended that summer; although he had been an important element in concluding the NBA lockout in 2011, the union's executive board voted unanimously the following April that it no longer trusted him to hold the position. However, Fisher refused to resign. He played 81 games for the Thunder in the 2013-14 season before retiring. His name went down in league industry as having made the most playoff game appearances. Fisher's new job reunites him with Jackson, who is now president of the Knicks.