The notion of Isiah Thomas being employed again by the Knicks is a terrifying and mystifying one, sure. He ruined the franchise for a decade, is seemingly coaching a college team, and, oh yeah, cost the team nearly $12 million in a sexual-harassment lawsuit. It’s insane that the Knicks would even mutter his name in public, let alone give him another job. One wonders what exactly is required to have the Knicks never consider rehiring someone; maybe giving Dolan’s “band” JD & the Straight Shot a bad Pitchfork review? But let’s not get carried away. This is not the end of the world.
While some argue that Donnie Walsh should quit now before the Isiah virus metastasizes, or say that David Stern should step in somehow, a strong argument exists that this isn’t that big a deal, or even all that different than what the Knicks already had going on. Remember: They’ve been paying Isiah all this time anyway. (It’s why Isiah wasn’t, and isn’t, taking a salary at Florida International.)
Great Knicks blog Posting and Toasting has a great rundown of why much of the Isiah reaction is media nonsense. There are five main reasons.
1. This is the same job he’s had all along. After all, Isiah did assist in the recruiting of Amar’e Stoudemire, and even tried to convince LeBron James to come last-minute. There is certainly debate as to whether today’s players idolize Isiah Thomas the player as much as Jim Dolan claims they do, but Isiah has long been a recruiter and spotter of young talent. (Remember, Isiah wasn’t a bad drafter.) The Knicks have been paying him for almost a decade now; might as well get something out of it.
2. He lives in Miami. And he doesn’t want to leave. “I’m not going anywhere. I love my life here,” he says.
3. He doesn’t want the GM job. From the same story: When asked if he had his eyes on the GM job once Walsh leaves, Isiah said, “Nah, I don’t think so.” Obviously, Isiah could very well be lying, and it would have been ideal if he said, “Not only do I not have eyes on the job, but I’m rather tired of being forced to be a part of Jim Dolan’s hobo orgies,” but at least he said he doesn’t want it. At least he’s on record.
4. Really, this isn’t a change at all. As Isiah and everyone with the Knicks keeps insisting (officially, anyway): This job has been in the works for a while, and it’s just now being reported. Isiah is just consulting and is not making any major decisions. As Howard Beck from the Times put it Friday, it’s “nothing more than an incremental step … toward rebuilding his NBA résumé.” He’s here, in part, because he’s had some high-profile personal problems and Jim Dolan wants to help. Nice guy, Jim. Sure, there’s a PR hit involved, which is the case any time Jim Dolan does anything; surely, they were aware of this, considering they released the news late on a Friday afternoon. But their stance on the kerfuffle has been consistent: This is a formality, and they do legitimately believe Isiah will help with free agents. And – most important – that this isn’t a slingshot back to the GM position.
5. The Knicks can’t possibly be so stupid as to put Isiah Thomas back at GM again. We just refuse to live in a world where that is possible.