October 2015 we found out that Matt Barnes and Derek Fisher had a private encounter that resulted in a physical altercation. Barnes was playing for the Grizzlies, and Fisher was coaching the Knicks at the time. Players are entitled to their private lives and deserve to keep them private, but an active coach and player, also former teammates, getting into a fight was newsworthy at the time.
A short recap: Fisher was dating Gloria Govan, Barnes’s ex-wife. Barnes and Govan have two kids, and while talking to the kids, Barnes felt something was going on that was making the kids unsettled, so he went over to the house. There were an altercation and police were involved.
Now, there were many versions of this story, from Matt Barnes driving 90 miles to get into a fight (turned out not to be true, he was 15 min away) to all sorts of versions who kicked who’s ass, etc. What we did know was that Barnes went over to the house and there was a fight between the two. When the player and coach saw each other later in the season, everything went ok.
Barnes was known as a player you don’t want to mess with on the court. One of those guys who would meet you outside the locker room if necessary. This reputation contributed to our interest level, as you couldn’t be sure the issue was over. It also had an impact on Fisher’s standing in the league who was coaching the Knicks and has the ambition to work in the NBA.
Earlier in the year, Barnes was on Hot 97, and he explained his side of the story where the most significant issue was Fisher not telling him he is living with his kids and ex-wife:
Derek was, I think he had a lot of people fooled, Derek was kind of, like the, not like the big brother, but just the do-right type dude. That’s what he tried to portray. … He told Phil Jackson that his daughter was sick and he had to fly to see her, he left training camp, and he went home to see my family.
He described the fight and said it would’ve been wild if anyone had caught it on video:
I wouldn’t call it a fight, he was running around screaming, trying to talk. I was like ‘You had a lot of time to talk to me, this is no time for talking.’ They were actually having a little get-together when it happened so I didn’t get the really straight beat down. It was like three separate times where I get him, people pull me off, and I’d get him again type sh–.
In the end, Fisher set his personal feelings aside as his kids told him they like Fisher and want him to be friends with him:
I just pulled him to the side and explained why I fought him, and he understood. He apologized. I apologized for letting it escalate to a fight, but it just kind of was what it was. I explained — it wasn’t the fact that it was my ex. It was the fact that you’re in my house with my kids.
We recently got a chance to hear Derek Fisher about the incident. Fisher didn’t go into as much detail as Barnes did, but he did draw the line under the entire thing in an interview with Kristine Leahy on Fair Game:
I personally didn’t and I don’t now. I viewed it as Matt and I played together for one season. It was five years prior to Gloria and I started to have a conversation after we both have filed for divorce and going to divorce process. I didn’t view it as a code, unwritten code thing. I don’t view life in that way.
He continued talking about his relationship with Barnes now:
I would say we are respectful because I’m in his kids’ life and he’s in my kids’ life. The issue was never mine or Gloria’s, it was more his.
A sense of humor always is a good indicator, so Barnes commenting he is now on better terms with Fisher than his ex-wife goes to show the incident is now behind them. While the former teammates may have ended the beef, this will for sure still linger over Fisher and his reputation around the league.