Losing Isiah

By Carla Peay
Updated: April 23, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Isiah Thomas is without a doubt one of the greatest point guards to ever play in the NBA. Recognized as one the league’s 50 greatest players, Thomas’ 13-year career with the Detroit Pistons was highlighted by 12 all-star selections and two NBA Championships.

But his post-playing career has no highlights, only lowlights. In a decision that has basketball fans nationwide saying “finally” and “what took them so long”, Thomas has been fired from the New York Knicks. Well, sort of.

Knicks owner James Dolan relieved Thomas of his position as President of Basketball Operations, replacing him with Donnie Walsh, back on April 2.

Then on April 18, Walsh relieved Thomas of his head coaching duties as well, giving Knicks fans what they had been clamoring for, since Thomas’ ineptitude as the head coach led to a 56-108 record in two seasons.

Equally incompetent as a general manager as he was as coach, Thomas mismanaged the team’s salary cap, made highly questionable trades, put the team in the hands of career malcontent Stephon Marbury and feuded with Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown.

Not to mention that pesky little lawsuit.

In a span of four years, Thomas turned the one of the NBA’s premier franchises into a league-wide joke. Knicks fans (as I once was as a kid growing up in New Jersey), had taken to chanting “Fire Isiah” during the games and showing up with giant pink slips as signs, and wondering just how long Dolan would let this farce continue.

Even commissioner David Stern considered stepping into this mess. When asked about the state of the Knicks back in 2007, Stern famously commented that the Knicks “demonstrated that they are not a model of intelligent management”.


If anything, Stern understated the issue. Thomas’ incompetence as a coach and president pale in comparison to his reprehensible behavior toward former Knicks executive Anucha Browne-Sanders, who was fired when she objected to Thomas’ behavior towards her, and filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Thomas and Madison Square Garden<.

Browne-Sanders won her case, to the tune of $11.6 million dollars, but to the surprise of no one, Thomas continued playing the victim, still believing that he could flash his brilliant smile and charm his way out anything.

Even now, Teflon Thomas lives on. Shortly after the Knicks made the announcement that Thomas would not return as coach next season, Walsh was quick to add that Thomas would remain with the team, although he will have no official title, and that no one will be reporting to him.

And no doubt earn millions. Nice work if you can get it.

“I value his opinion, so I will use him as a resource,” Walsh said during a media conference call last Friday. Walsh and Thomas worked together with the Indiana Pacers, so once again, Thomas has an ally.

So let’s recap. After a brilliant career on the court, Thomas left the Toronto Raptors amidst a dispute with team management, bought the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) then plunged it into bankruptcy, was mediocre at best in his three seasons as coach of the Pacers before coming to New York and imploding the Knicks, and was found guilty of sexual harassment in a court of law.

Yet his friends in the NBA still find ways to continue giving this man a multi-million dollar paycheck. Basketball fans are shaking their heads. Browne-Sanders is likely somewhere shaking her head.

And the New York Knicks, once the class of the NBA in the days of Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere, Walt ” Clyde” Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, are still a joke, as they allow this travesty of a sham of a mockery to continue.