Fisher wrote Thursday in a first-person piece in Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron that the Knicks never mentioned his personal life or that players had lost confidence in him because of it when they fired him in January after 1½ seasons.
“Nothing remotely like that was ever brought up or discussed,” Fisher wrote.
Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, who hired Fisher as coach shortly after his former point guard ended his playing career, had said the incident was an embarrassment but wasn’t a consideration in the firing.
But Fisher said stories afterward claimed otherwise, which led him to write the piece that amounted to his first comments beyond a brief statement after his firing.
“That’s why I was shocked when stories like that surfaced in the media,” he wrote. “So were my players. At the time, we were going through a difficult 1-9 stretch, but to its credit, the entire team was still responsive to my leadership, decision making and coaching. They hadn’t given up on me. They weren’t questioning my integrity. My relationships with my players were good and becoming stronger.”
The altercation with Barnes, Fisher’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate who now plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, took place in California in October when Fisher was at the home of Gloria Govan, Barnes’ estranged wife. Barnes learned Fisher was there and showed up to confront him.
In the article titled “Truth,” Fisher says he didn’t retaliate when Barnes started throwing punches and there was no fight, and that his relationship with Govan wasn’t a secret from Barnes.
Despite that he and Barnes were teammates, Fisher says they were never friends.
“When Gloria and I started dating, she and Matt had already been separated and living apart for more than a year,” Fisher wrote. “Same thing for me. My wife and I were long separated; she was in L.A., I was in New York. Matt and Gloria were not trying to work things out, and I certainly wasn’t seeing her behind Matt’s back or in secret. The relationship wasn’t something I was trying to publicize, but it also wasn’t something I was trying to hide, either. There was no reason to.”
Fisher missed a preseason practice after traveling to California, with the Knicks saying his return was delayed because of travel issues. It was soon reported that the altercation had taken place.
“At the time, I had no intention of saying anything about what happened, and I definitely didn’t wish for the incident to become public knowledge,” Fisher said. “As far as I was concerned, it was something I was willing to let pass, and as an NBA head coach, I was more than aware that actions off the court might reflect upon many others beyond just me.
“Then suddenly, the story of a ‘fight’ leaked to the media. I’ll let you speculate on who leaked it and why, and the nature of their character. My reputation speaks for itself.”
The NBA suspended Barnes for two games over the incident.
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