Knicks Fire Coach Derek Fisher


Derek Fisher, center, lasted less than two seasons in his first tenure as a head coach.

David Goldman/Associated Press

The Knicks fired Coach Derek Fisher on Monday, less than two seasons into his failed tenure as a first-time coach.

The team announced in a statement that Kurt Rambis would take over as interim coach. Rambis had been serving as Fisher’s top assistant.

The Knicks’ loss to the Denver Nuggets on Sunday was their ninth loss in 10 games, dropping their record to 23-31. It turned out to be the tipping point for Phil Jackson, the team president, who sought a change with the team swiftly falling out of playoff contention.

Fisher, who was hired in June 2014, coached the Knicks to an overall record of 40-96 (.294). He leaves in the second season of a five-year, $25 million deal, meaning the Knicks once again find themselves dealing with an expensive mistake, this one made by Jackson, who took over as team president in March 2014.

Initially, he wooed Steve Kerr to become the Knicks’ coach for the 2014-15 season, but in something of a surprise, Kerr turned him down and took the head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors, with whom he proceeded to win an N.B.A. championship.


Kurt Rambis, right, had been Fisher’s top assistant.

Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Jackson, who seemed to have a backup plan in case Kerr rejected his offer, eventually turned to Fisher, who was just finishing a long and distinguished playing career by serving as a backup guard with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It was understood that Fisher, who played for Jackson when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers and helped him win five championships there, would be learning on the job last season. Still, no one, including Jackson, could have foreseen how poorly the team would do.

The Knicks stumbled to a 17-65 record, the worst in franchise history, and any steps that Fisher was taking to implement Jacksons’s famed triangle offense became irrelevant.

This season started out far better. Bolstered by the addition of the Knicks’ first-round pick, Kristaps Porzingis, who became an immediate sensation in New York and around the N.B.A., the Knicks played well enough to be considered a contender for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

As late as Jan. 20, the Knicks had a 22-22 record after winning their second overtime game at Madison Square Garden in three nights. But since then, they have slumped badly. With the All-Star break looming, Jackson decided now was the time to shake things up.

Not immediately clear was how much, if at all, Fisher’s well-publicized off-season confrontation with the Memphis Grizzlies’ Matt Barnes might have played into Jackson’s decision.

In October, Barnes and Fisher became involved in an altercation at the Los Angeles-area home of Barnes’s estranged wife, Gloria Govan. Fisher was reported to have been in a personal relationship with Govans at the time.

Barnes was ultimately given a two-game suspension by the N.B.A. for his role in the episode; Fisher was not punished. But his judgment in engaging in a relationship with the estranged wife of an active N.B.A. player was questioned, and whether it affected his status was unclear.

Barnes, who is known to be an emotional player, did his best to keep the incident from receding, criticizing Fisher publicly as recently as mid-January, when the two teams played in Memphis.

The Knicks and the Grizzlies played again Friday night at Madison Square Garden. This time, Barnes chose not to talk about Fisher, and he and his teammates put together a 91-85 victory. After that, Fisher coached one more game, a 101-96 loss to Denver, also at the Garden. Now he becomes just another Knicks coach who did not last very long.

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