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Derek Fisher’s appointment as head coach in Los Angeles continues to ‘Spark’ concern

Fisher’s losing record as head coach of the NBA’s New York Knicks is one thing, but a blistering report from Deadspin on Fisher’s involvement with a predatory lending company has attracted even more attention to his off-court dealings.

New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks
Derek Fisher
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Being named head coach of the Los Angeles Sparks in light of being fired by the NBA’s New York Knicks after amassing a record of 40 wins and 96 losses in one-and-a-half seasons is cause enough for concern. More concerning, still, is that Sparks general manager Penny Toler did not consider other candidates before hiring Fisher. Now, it is becoming clear that Toler either did not vet Fisher (thoroughly or at all), or that she vetted him, but was either fine with apparent red flags or chose to ignore them.

On Wednesday, Deadspin published a scathing report about Fisher’s high-level involvement with Luxury Asset Capital, which the author characterizes as a “predatory” lending scheme that “turns its profit by capitalizing on the financial hardship of its clients, who, in the scope of Fisher’s department, are wealthy athletes.”

The article was sparked by a tweet from Darren Rovell explaining that Luxury Asset Capital loans are paid by athletes putting up “their property, contracts [and] pension[s] as collateral.”

According to Deadspin, Fisher is the the Executive Vice President of Luxury Asset Capital’s Sports & Entertainment Group, and the announcement by Rovell on Twitter was met with swift backlash from former NBA player Baron Davis, who basically called Fisher a sellout, and Jared Dudley, whose exclamation marks showed his level of exasperation as he urged Fisher to “stay away from this.”

Most concerning about a WNBA head coach being involved in a scheme like this is that WNBA players (at least, those without endorsement deals) could be more vulnerable to this kind of lending simply because their salaries are drastically lower than those of NBA players. Additionally, the NBPA providing financial tools to help players stick to a budget in the interest of their long-term financial futures is a very recent doing, with retired athletes in both the WNBA and NBA still falling on hard financial times after retiring from the game. It is clear to see how Luxury Asset Capital will help Derek Fisher and others make money. But it is hard to see how a retired player will benefit from putting up his or her pension — other than temporarily, and with stiff consequences to come.

Derek Fisher was handpicked by Phil Jackson to coach the New York Knicks, and he walked away with the millions of dollars still left on his contract after his firing. Now, Fisher has been handpicked by Penny Toler to coach the Los Angeles Sparks. This is not to say Fisher does not deserve this, or any other, opportunity. But his coaching record does not justify this level of favoritism and, surely, no woman has ever happened into a coaching job this easily.

The handling of Fisher’s appointment has left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths and it will be interesting to see if even a winning 2019 WNBA season will rinse it out.