EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 16: Head coach Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks directs play during the game against the New Jersey Nets on January 16, 2008 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Knicks won 111-105. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
"The Isiah thing makes me not a Knicks fan. I just can't support a team that does that."
That's a verbatim text message received this weekend as the news that Isiah Thomas was reinstated as a consultant to the Knicks. It's a bit of an overreaction, Thomas was already playing some kind of role for the Knicks based on Donnie Walsh thanking him at the introductory Amar'e Stoudemire press conference, but it is also an easy one to understand.
Why would you support a team that would willingly continue to have a working relationship with the man responsible for Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Stephon Marbury and the shameful treatment of Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens and Don Chaney? And, of course, there's the entire mess with Anucha Browne Sanders and the fact that Thomas turned the Knicks into as big a disgrace off the court as they were on it. There's only one man on the planet who would ignore all that. Sadly that man is James Dolan.
Look, we all knew that Thomas was still lurking around the shadows. They sent him to recruit LeBron James, they owe him money and we've long known Dolan has the judgment of a drunk goat. The idea that you'd formalize and publicize the relationship, however, is such a massive insult to the people who have stuck with this team that you could hardly blame someone for turning their back on the Knicks forever.
There are wise men who scoff at such notions and say that Thomas is merely a consultant who will offer scouting advice, even though he's not that good at it, without having any say in the actual operations of the Knicks. There's no need to panic or so goes that argument.
This isn't panic. This is the grim reality of life during Dolan's tenure as owner. It doesn't take long to draw a line from this news to Dolan's refusal to allow Walsh to hire a general manager. Chris Mullin's name has come up a lot for that job but the longer it remains vacant, the longer reasonable people will be able to assume that it is just a matter of time before Thomas makes a return to that job. Call in panic, paranoia or whatever you want but there's no reason for confidence that the Thomas train stops here.
There's still one out. The NBA is reportedly still checking out whether it is okay for a team official to also serve as a college coach. Thomas and Florida International have already been cleared by the NCAA, which must be complimented for finding new ways to make fools of themselves, but the league has rules in place barring contact between NBA employees and players not yet eligible for the draft. If David Stern cares at all about that rule or about the team in the country's biggest city he'll put the kibosh on Thomas's return.
The damage is already done, though. This summer revitalized the Knicks as the beauty of cap space resulted in a vastly improved roster and a complete overhaul of all the evil Thomas wrought while he ran the team. Now, even if Thomas is barred from officially coming back, any progress must be measured against the owner's desire to employ yes-men and cronies who are never held accountable for their mistakes.
Why would anyone want to root for a team like that?