Derek Fisher has been named as the next head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks which has been greeted with mixed reactions.
On the 30th of November Brian Agler resigned as the head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks. This came as a shock to most WNBA fans, Agler was one of the most successful coaches in league history. In 15 seasons as a head coach, Agler amassed 489 games, winning 271 of them. He also won two championships, one with the Seattle Storm and one with the Sparks. He is the first coach to win WNBA championships at the helm of two different teams.
Agler took over the Sparks in 2015, coaching four full seasons. In that time he coached 136 games, winning 85 of them at a 62.5 clip. He took the Sparks to the WNBA finals in two successive years, winning the league in 2016. This is a shortened summary of an incredibly impressive resume but he is now ready for a new challenge.
Once it was announced that Agler had resigned, the Sparks also announced that a comprehensive search would be conducted for their new head coach. It appears that this search took no longer than a week. This is not entirely true, Agler resigned on the 1st of November giving the team a full month to vet some candidates.
The search ended up with Derek Fisher, a long time Los Angeles player and resident. Naturally, every armchair expert has their opinion, and judging by the twitter reaction, there are a lot of reservations about Fisher coaching this team. Some of these appear personally motivated and as such will not get written about here.
However, I do comment on basketball matters and there are reservations about his coaching acumen. He was the head coach of the New York Knicks in the NBA from 2014-16 where his record is less than stellar. In one and a half seasons Fisher had a 40-96 record which is less than a 30 percent winning percentage. This is not the resume for a successful interview, usually.
However, in saying that I counsel caution on judging how well someone is going to coach based on simple numbers. In his second NBA season Fisher got his hands on Kristaps Porzingis who he was able to pair up with Carmelo Anthony. The result was a 22-22 start to the season, he was fired after a nine game losing streak in this season.
Most people also appear to have forgotten that Fisher lost Anthony for more than half of his first season. How do you expect a coach to implement a philosophy and game plan to a group where the most pivotal member is not available. This is why I counsel caution. When he had a decent team, Fisher was fired holding a .500 record in the hardest men’s league in the world.
Fisher now has one of the most talented rosters in the entire WNBA at his disposal. Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike, Chelsea Gray, Alana Beard, Jantel Lavender, Odyssey Sims and Essence Carson are all top level talent with many young players fighting for playing time.
I originally questioned the appointment of Fisher, I remember his horrible year and a half at the Knicks. However, I have decided, after some reflection, to reserve my judgement until June or July next year, after he has had some time to actually coach and make his mark on the team.