NEWYORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — With their playoff chances starting to slip away, the Knicks made a drastic move Monday, relieving head coach Derek Fisher of his duties.
WFAN reported the firing and the team later confirmed the move.
The decision came with the Knicks in the midst of a five-game losing streak and with losses in nine of their last 10. New York (23-31) entered play Monday five games out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, with 28 games to play.
Team president Phil Jackson said the Knicks’ skid over the past three weeks suggested a shakeup was needed.
“It’s time for us to make a change, turn this team around and move forward,” Jackson told reporters.
“We thought our players could be playing better.”
Kurt Rambis, Fisher’s top assistant and a former head coach for the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, was named interim head coach, the Knicks announced.
Fisher, who was hired prior to the 2014-15 season, was a five-time champion playing under Jackson with the Lakers and known as one of the league’s smartest players. Jackson, the Knicks’ president, turned to him as his second choice after Steve Kerr chose to take the Golden State Warriors’ job after he was on the verge of accepting the Knicks’ offer.
Fisher had no prior NBA head coaching experience, but was thought to be a solid hire due to his vast knowledge of the triangle offense, the system Jackson employed during his Hall of Fame coaching career.
Fisher, who amassed a 40-96 record with the Knicks, thanked Jackson and Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan, along with his players and staff.
“This is a very talented team with strong character and I am confident they will succeed,” Fisher said in a statement. “Obviously, I’m disappointed, but have learned an immense amount from this experience and hope to grow from it.”
The Knicks won a franchise record-low 17 games last season, but upgraded their roster during the summer with the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis and the signing of veterans Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez.
They had the look of a playoff team most of the season, getting to 22-22 with a win over Utah on Jan. 20, but are stumbling into the All-Star break. Fans loudly booed when they fell behind by 19 points Sunday during a 101-96 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Part of the problem this season has been Carmelo Anthony’s health.
The veteran forward is averaging 21 points and nearly eight rebounds per game, but has missed seven games due to injuries. The Knicks have lost them all.
The most attractive head coach candidate on the open market is Tom Thibodeau, who went 255-139 in five seasons with the Chicago Bulls before being fired after the 2014-15 season. Thibodeau, 58, won at least 50 games three times and guided the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals during the 2010-11 season.
While Thibodeau is available now, Jackson seemed comfortable with the idea of allowing Rambis to coach out at least this season.
“I have big confidence in his ability to coach this team,” he said.
Jackson said he has not made a list of possible coaching candidates.
When asked if he has considered returning to the bench, Jackson said, “Not for one second.”
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