“Basketball is for everyone.” These were the words riddled into new head coach Derek Fisher’s introductory press conference on December 7th, 2018 after he was hired to become the 12thhead coach in Los Angeles Sparks franchise history. “This is not a step-down, sideways, or backward…to work with some of the greatest athletes that play the game in the world is not something that I’m taking lightly.”
Derek Fisher knows about being one of and being around some of the greatest athletes to have ever picked up a basketball. As a five-time NBA Champion, Fisher has had the opportunity to play alongside some of the greats. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Dirk Nowitzki all had the pleasure of calling D-Fish a teammate. The expertise he picked up along the way as a player around these players was unmatched, especially having played under the direction of the Zen Master, Phil Jackson, who also coached arguably the greatest player of all time, Michael Jordan. Many will remember Fisher from his 2004 Western Conference Finals moment where he scored a game-winning fadeaway jumper with 0.4 seconds on the clock in San Antonio to beat Tim Duncan and the Spurs. Fisher had cemented his spot in Los Angeles sports lore forever with that shot and with his return to LA, this time in a coaching role, many were quick to take notice.
When it was announced that Fisher accepted the role of head coach, there was an outpouring of support from Sparks players and executives on just what having a mind like Fisher’s would bring to the culture of the Sparks and the WNBA as a whole. Two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker said in an interview with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “Derek is a great basketball mind who brings a ton of high-level experience to our team.” General Manager Penny Toler added, “Derek is a champion and proven leader on and off the court.”
This is not Fisher’s first stint as a head coach of a professional basketball team. In 2014, Fisher was hired by his former head coach, turned President Phil Jackson to take over Jackson’s New York Knicks, who were led by All-Star Carmelo Anthony. Many within New York and their front office were eager to see Fisher, who had just retired with the Oklahoma City Thunder, implement the same style of play that he had learned while playing as a Los Angeles Laker under the direction of Jackson. Unfortunately, his reign as the head coach only last three seasons as he posted a 40-96 overall record with the Knicks before being let go by Jackson during the 2016 season.
The opportunity to lead a successful franchise like the Sparks back to their championship pedigree was there for Coach Fisher, and he understands that “sustained excellence is what Los Angeles basketball fans demand and what they deserve.” Since being named head coach, the Sparks have been one of the best teams in the WNBA and are looking towards making another playoff appearance. Having played in 259 playoff games in his illustrious career, Coach Fisher brings plenty of experience to help guide this team in the right direction come playoffs, with the end goal being to bring a fourth championship back to the city of Los Angeles.