Could former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson end up coaching the New York Knicks?… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from New Orleans — Derek Fisher couldn't help but laugh. The ink had barely dried on Mike D'Antoni's resignation papers, but the Lakers guard was being asked about Phil Jackson.
Could he see the former Lakers coach taking over the New York Knicks next season?
"Recognizing how competitive he is, and how much he still loves the game itself and from his great memories of New York, from that standpoint I wouldn't be surprised," Fisher said. "But I would be surprised from a quality-of-life standpoint. I'm just not sure if physically where he left off if he has, or wants to have, the energy that's required to run an NBA team and the travel and everything that comes with it. I just don't know if that's where he is in his life overall right now."
Fisher played nine seasons under Jackson, winning five championships and playing in two other NBA Finals. He had as good an insight as any player into Jackson's competetive mind-set.
Fisher has remained in contact with Jackson via phone texts but hasn't talked to him directly about the news of D'Antoni's resignation Wednesday.
"I would not dare to guess what to expect when it comes to Phil's choices," Fisher said, smiling. "He's always been a free mind and will do what he feels he wants to do. These last few years, before him leaving, this [last] year took a lot out of him. Maybe the battery's recharged at this point. Who knows?"
Those who have seen Jackson in recent weeks say he looked relaxed, happily working on a book about basketball and watching games with some regularity while enjoying the life of a 66-year-old living a few steps from the Southern California sand.
In recent seasons, Jackson often complained about the travel part of coaching in the NBA — the uncomfortable beds in all the different hotels, the unpredictable weather, the sometimes tasteless food.
"It's a really unhealthy lifestyle," Jackson said last April. "I think that's a good reason to get out of the game in some ways too."
Fisher came up with a unique solution.
"I think if he had a deal where he could coach the home games and somebody else could coach the road games and he could still get paid the same … perfect," Fisher said. "Knowing him, if he doesn't believe he could fully commit to it and help put whatever team they have personnel-wise they would have in position to win, he's not going to do it."
Jackson won 11 championships in 20 NBA seasons as an NBA coach. He also won a title as a key reserve forward for the Knicks in 1973. A back injury prevented him from being part of the Knicks' championship team in 1970.