The New York Knicks introduced Derek Fisher, who won five championships under Phil Jackson and played his last game with the Oklahoma City Thunder nine days ago, as the 26th head coach in the history of their franchise today. The parallels to Jason Kidd last year are stunning: nine days after announcing his retirement, the former point guard Kidd, who led the Nets to two NBA Finals, took the Nets coaching gig.
Fisher might get a congratulatory call from his new cross-town coaching rival, and Kidd might give him a few tips for adjustment. But after watching Kidd coach his way through his rookie season, here’s five dos and don’ts from me.
Do exhibit control immediately. Even if you’re soft-spoken by nature, one of the early problems of perception with Kidd was that he wasn’t taking control of practices, that running the team was Lawrence Frank’s job and Kidd was just hanging back. Sure, everyone respected Kidd immediately for his basketball mind and control, but after Frank was gone players openly admitted that Kidd took a step back with Frank in charge.
I know Phil Jackson’s always looming, and figuring out when to lead and when to step back is all part of leading. It’s a learning curve, but it’s one Kidd took for you, Derek. Remember that this is your car no matter what. But…
Do embrace that you’re still kind of a player. Jason Kidd may have had a suit on all year, but that doesn’t mean he always felt like the coach. His emotional reactions on the bench mimicked a player: when Pierce swatted away Kyle Lowry’s shot to end Game 7 of the first round, Kidd didn’t react like Gregg Popovich, he reacted like Jorge Gutierrez. That’s okay. You have the power, but you don’t have to pretend that you’re a seasoned coach all of a sudden. It won’t look natural if you’re trying too hard to look like a natural.
Don’t be afraid to screw up. Jason Kidd was best when he was weird. His season highlight was purposefully spilling a cup of soda on the court to get a bonus time-out and draw up a play, which cost him $50,000 and gave his team a bonus chance to win a tight game. Most of us wouldn’t trade $50,000 to try to win a regular season game in November, but Jason Kidd isn’t most of us, and neither are you. Derek, you’re making $25 million over the next five years. Get weird and get fined if it gets you wins.
It’s not just soda spills. Kidd took risks with his lineup all year, starting Shaun Livingston when he already had a point guard and Mason Plumlee when he already had Andray Blatche. Both worked. He used his guards as his post-up players and his bigs as jump shooters. It worked. To stick in the NBA you can’t be afraid to be unconventional, even on the most conventional team in NBA history.
Do worry about your suit and beard. Look what a tie-less shirt and a distinguished touch of gray did to Jason Kidd’s career. But be careful: the beard, if not well-kept, could prove disastrous at press conferences. Those AP cameras are mighty high-definition.
Finally, Don’t make Kurt Rambis do daily reports. At least not right away.