Isiah Thomas was named president and part-owner of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, and his return to professional basketball (obviously) made some waves.
Thomas, of course, cost Madison Square Garden (the parent company that owns the Knicks) $11.6 million in damages back in 2007, after a jury ruled that he sexually harassed a former team executive who was improperly fired for complaining about the unwanted advances.
That, along with his track record of failure when he was both coach and GM of the Knicks caused many to wonder why he was being given this second chance. Thomas has always maintained a strong relationship with Knicks owner James Dolan, however, so seeing him back at MSG in a basketball capacity shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise.
Phil Jackson may have been less than pleased with the development, and perhaps partially as a result of that, Thomas is choosing to steer clear of Jackson at this early stage of the proceedings.
After being named Liberty president and partial owner three weeks ago, the perception is the ex-Knicks president Thomas is being groomed by owner James Dolan to be Jackson’s successor when the 69-year-old Zen Master retires to Los Angeles after – or before – his five-year contract expires. Thomas left the Knicks in 2007 in disgrace after a stint that included two 23-59 seasons and being involved in a Garden sexual harassment trial.
“Because of the perception I haven’t [tried to talk to him],’’ Thomas said. “I think all of us in this building, we all share the same building, we all root for each other. We all want each other to do well. We all want each other to win.’’
Asked if he wanted to return to the NBA one day, Thomas didn’t rule it out. Thomas has told confidants since 2008 his goal was one day to make a triumphant return.
“You never know where life takes you,’’ Thomas said. “I don’t think there’s anyone in this room who can say three years from now I’ll be here. I live in the present. This is where I’m at today. I’ll do the best job I can possibly do here. You never know where you’re going to end up.’’
The presser was packed, but unfortunately it wasn’t because of a renewed interest in women’s professional basketball. Everyone was there to see what Thomas had to say, and whether he’d give any clues as to his future with the Knicks — if it exists at all.
But Thomas seemed to be focused on the Liberty on this day. Whether or not that continues, and whether that keeps him from rejoining the Knicks at some point in the future? Well, that remains to be seen.