After providing the voice of calm and reason spanning 18 years, five NBA championships and countless clutch shots and speeches, Derek Fisher said he is not ready to jump into the coaching ranks just yet.
But the reasons have nothing to do with his lack of head-coaching experience or believing he is not fit for a job. With the Oklahoma City Thunder losing in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, Fisher said he still wanted some time before figuring out what his next step will entail.
“I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to my wife and step back emotionally from the end of the season. That’s important to do so that whatever is next, there has to be a separation from the end of the season and what just happened and then go from there,” Fisher said in his exit interview with reporters, as captured on video by the Oklahoman. “There’s a proper way to do it, which definitely starts with accepting what happened last night and having some discussions privately as a family and having discussions with the appropriate people depending on what that decision is.”
Some of those appropriate people could include the Lakers, which has spent the past two weeks interviewing a flurry of candidates to fill their vacant head-coaching position. The candidates have proved wide-ranging, including those familiar with the Lakers (Byron Scott, Kurt Rambis, Mike Dunleavy) and ones with vast head-coaching experience (Lionel Hollins, Alvin Gentry).
Though Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said after the NBA draft lottery that he leaned toward hiring a coach with previous experience, he did not rule out potential wild cards. One of those candidates could become Fisher. He has built plenty of equity with the Lakers given his five NBA titles here, his relationship with Kobe Bryant and his leadership experience both as a commanding locker room presence and the previous president of the NBA Players Association.
That possibility coupled with New York Knicks president and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson touting Fisher as a candidate could accelerate his decision making. Fisher called that reality “surreal.”
“I always envisioned finishing up as a player and at whatever point, you take a step back and go on a sabbatical for a year or two and go home and become the best at-home dad you can be for a while and then you make decisions about what you want to do next,” Fisher said. “That’s not the way the world works these days. That’s changed in business, sports and life. So much of life is timing and opportunity and being able to take advantage of the right opportunities and right situations at the right time. It’s always been that way as a player. You get drafted to the right team at the right time or you sign as a free agent on the right team at the right time. It makes all the difference in the world.”
So where this make a difference in Fisher’s thinking?
“There is for sure huge layers added to the personal relationship and professional relationship I’ve had with Phil Jackson over the years and like you said also with the Lakers having an opening,” Fisher said. “It for sure adds layers to it. Just like any important decision in life, you can’t necessarily be driven completely by going on what’s happening externally. You have to have an internal set of boundaries and a compass that you make decisions by. I’ll combine all of those things as I try to make the best decision possible.”
Fisher left open the possibility that decision could entail postponing retirement plans, saying, “my heart is definitely still in it.” Still, he conceded the uncertainty on how the Thunder handles it offseason rebuilding and both exchanged sentimental goodbyes to coach Scott Brooks and general manager Sam Presti should Fisher no longer strap up his shoelaces. Fisher even thanked the reporters in Oklahoma City for covering him both with praise and criticism during his time there for parts of the past three seasons.
But after initially envisioning his post-playing career entailing a career either in broadcasting, business or philanthropy, Fisher conceded the coaching field currently interests him.
“I’ve been blessed and gifted enough to able to positively impact other people,” Fisher said. “I didn’t know what that would look like and how that vision would come to life. Coaching allows for you to positively impact other people’s lives and to help a group of people find success. You’re all working together for a common goal.”
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