“If you can’t get to a point where you don’t have an ego about this thing, and you just want to share and learn, you end up getting better because of that. I really tried to hang my hat on that and learn from any person I can.” – David Fizdale on the reason for his success as told to the San Jose Mercury News.
In the midst of one of the most hectic and anxious months of his professional coaching career, David Fizdale never lost track of how he got to the top of his profession.
Fizdale, according to many, was always listening, always learning, always willing to consider a new approach or piece of advice. So even while he was preparing for interviews with the Knicks and Phoenix Suns, Fizdale stayed true to himself.
Less than three weeks ago he attended a Golden State Warriors practice. The Warriors are coached by one of Fizdale’s close friends in the profession, Steve Kerr.
“Steve and I have always had a great relationship,” Fizdale told the San Jose Mercury News. “He was the first guy that called me when I got fired to say, ‘Wait a minute, this ain’t right.’ It meant a lot to me.”
Fizdale’s purgatory as an unemployed NBA head coach is over. After a meticulous search in which President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry interviewed 11 candidates, the Knicks will reportedly announce next week the hiring of Fizdale as their head coach.
Fizdale, 43, is young enough to relate to the young core of talent the Knicks are assembling and experienced enough to know how to run the show. He was 50-51 in his one-plus seasons in Memphis, during which time he refused to bend to star Marc Gasol’s wishes.
That ultimately led to his firing. Despite benching one of the game’s elite centers for the fourth quarter of a game against the Nets, Fizdale’s stock actually rose in the player’s ranks.
They respect the courage of his convictions for how he dealt with Gasol.
They have always lauded Fizdale for his social activism.
They respect his basketball acumen.
Most of all, they appreciate that Fizdale treats them with respect.
Players took to social media to laud the slam-dunk hire.
Hellllll Yeeeaaahhhh!!! 👏 pic.twitter.com/lmdUSjJ1yv
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 3, 2018
TAKE THAT FOR DATA #KnicksWay
— Tim Hardaway Jr (@T_HardJR) May 3, 2018
Congrats to a great human and hard worker, FIZ #NewYorkForever
— Emmanuel Mudiay (@emmanuelmudiay) May 3, 2018
Welcome Fiz, to #KnicksWay
— Ron Baker (@RonBaker31) May 3, 2018
It wasn’t just Knicks players that lauded the hiring. Fizdale cut his teeth in Miami where he was an assistant coach on the Heat team that had LeBron James, a Fiz fan, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
When one🚪 closes. Another one opens. The future of NewYork just got a lot brighter( literally). Congrts my friend Coach Fizdale! https://t.co/zJoN6XG4fJ
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) May 3, 2018
According to published reports, Fizdale turned down the Phoenix job, hoping the Knicks would offer. They did.
It is already is getting rave reviews.
“You can throw him into any room, and he will be able to work with that room,’’ Heat coach Erik Spoelstra recently told the Palm Beach Post. “Anywhere. From where he grew up in South Central [Los Angeles], to a board meeting to a basketball camp, he can bring any group of people together.
“And I know I’ll always get the truth out of Fiz, even if it’s not what I want to hear.”
That authenticity has served Fiz well. He is a self-made man, raised in South Central, L.A., Fiz played his college ball at San Diego, where he got his first assistant coaching gig. The determined and methodical climb was underway.
Fizdale moved on to Fresno State. He got his first NBA job as an assistant with Warriors. Then it was on to Atlanta and Miami, where Pat Riley has instilled an ethos of hard work and professionalism.
That’s what got him hired in Memphis. The Grizzlies decided after Fizdale’s first season (43-39) to go with a youth movement.
When Fiz and Gasol had their falling out, the Grizzlies had the wedge they needed to fire a good coach and a better man. That man will reportedly soon call The Garden home.
“Today’s player is very different than yesterday’s player,’’ Mills told reporters. “You have to be a person that understands who these guys are, where they come from and understand the complexity of today’s NBA game.”
Mills and Perry took their time and got it right. They got a coach that can connect with players, which isn’t the same as a player’s coach. They got a coach that understands the Knicks are in this for the long haul.
“He’s a phenomenal coach — everyone has seen that in the job he was able to do in Memphis [in 2016-17],’’ Wade told reporters this season. “I definitely think his name will be in the running for a lot of jobs.
He’s going to bring to a team his work ethic, a great offensive-minded coach, but has defensive principles from Miami [president] Pat Riley has installed in every coach that’s come here.”