Derek Fisher finally addresses his relationship with Gloria Govan and his â€˜fightâ€™ with Matt Barnes.
Five months after his altercation across the country, former Knicks coach Derek Fisher broke his silence to attack the media, defend his girlfriend and clarify that he and Matt Barnes were never very close.
“One thing missing was my voice – my version of events,” Fisher wrote in an essay that was published Thursday on Sports Illustrated’s, The Cauldron.
Fisher, who was fired by Phil Jackson last month, didn’t address many specifics surrounding “the rumors and gossip,” as he dubbed them, including the most harmful indictment against his commitment as coach – that he missed Knicks practice after flying to L.A. to meet his girlfriend, Gloria Govan.
Instead, he spent much of the essay explaining that his personal life was never a distraction. He also eluded to a defense that he did nothing wrong by dating Barnes’ estranged wife.
“As far as Matt goes, to say that we had history before the incident would be an exaggeration,” Fisher wrote. “We were teammates, and never had any issues. We never had any real relationship off the court, either. We werenâ€™t friends and we had no mutual friends. … When Gloria and I started dating, she and Matt had already been separated and living apart for more than a year. 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 wasnâ€™t seeing her behind Mattâ€™s back or in secret. The relationship wasnâ€™t something I was trying to publicize, but it also wasnâ€™t something I was trying to hide, either. There was no reason to.
“I donâ€™t know what was going through Mattâ€™s mind that day in October when he showed up unannounced at Gloriaâ€™s house, and started swinging. I didnâ€™t retaliate. No one who was there did anything but try to get him to calm down, particularly because Matt and Gloriaâ€™s children were present. There was no fight. Thatâ€™s it. Thereâ€™s nothing more to what happened than that.”
While Barnes was publicly assassinating Fisher’s character – calling him a “snake” and a “snitch,” among other things – Fisher declined several opportunities to discuss anything involving the incident while with the Knicks.
The Knicks coach gets involved with Gloria Govan, Barnes’ estranged wife, and the two reportedly got into it when Barnes confronted fisher at Govan’s home after speaking with his kids via FaceTime.Â
On the day the story was revealed, however, Fisher felt compelled to talk to the team about it. Then unsubstantiated rumors of Fisher sleeping with other players’ girlfriends were so widely circulated that former Knick Tim Hardaway Jr. said he asked his significant other if she was sleeping with Fisher.
Jackson, who fired Fisher less than two seasons into a five-year contract, said the Barnes incident was “embarrassing” for the franchise but wasn’t a factor in his decision.
Fisher wrote that stories to the contrary were created because “salacious gossip sells papers and garners clicks, but when you publish outright lies, I have a right to defend myself.
“At no time did anyone at that meeting express to me that stories about my personal life were distracting from the collective task at hand, or – more important – that any of my players had expressed to management that they had lost confidence in me as their coach. Nothing remotely like that was ever brought up or discussed. Thatâ€™s why I was shocked when stories like that surfaced in the media. So were my players. At the time, we were going through a difficult 1â€“9 stretch, but to its credit, the entire team was still responsive to my leadership, decision making and coaching. They hadnâ€™t given up on me. They werenâ€™t questioning my integrity. My relationships with my players were good and becoming stronger.”
Fisher didn’t reference any specific report from the media and most of the accusations against his character came from Barnes’ mouth or Instagram account.
Barnes was suspended two games following an investigation from the NBA and later fined $ 35,000 for saying publicly, “Violence is never the answer, but sometimes it is.”
Just days after he was fired, Fisher was photographed with Govan as they boarded a airplane for a vacation.
“I was stunned and disappointed by the way Gloria was treated in the media,” Fisher wrote without specifics. “After the much publicized (and unfortunate) situation went down in Los Angeles last year, story after story was published that portrayed her as a piece of property, instead of the strong, independent woman and mother she is; someone who is capable of making her own decisions. This is a human being we are talking about, not some pawn in a game.”
Fisher has been involved in other controversies that questioned his integrity, including his departures from Dallas and Utah. In both instances, Fisher asked out of contracts so he could address family issues and quickly resurfaced with teams that were closer to a title. During his first season as Knicks coach, details of a divorce from his wife of 10 years went public after she filed a lawsuit claiming Fisher “blindsided” her by packing up and leaving in the middle of the night.
Fisher finished with a record of 40-96, the worst winning percentage of any Knicks coach who lasted longer than a season. New York is 4-8 since Fisher left.
“Plenty of people know me well, and they know my true character,” he wrote. “I would not have been allowed to lead the teams I led without the character and integrity I possess.”
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