Isiah Thomas was named president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty recently, in a move that immediately called into question Knicks owner James Dolan’s intentions.
Thomas, of course, was at one time both president and head coach of the Knicks, but was ousted from both positions in 2008 after a jury ruled that he sexually harassed a former team executive who was improperly fired for complaining about the unwanted advances.
There have been rumors that Dolan and Isiah have remained close, and that Thomas has consistently advised Dolan on basketball matters. While his current post only deals with the WNBA, Phil Jackson is reportedly less than pleased with the return of Thomas to the Madison Square Garden offices.
James Dolan’s decision to bring Isiah Thomas back to Madison Square Garden does not sit well with Dolan’s highest paid basketball executive: Phil Jackson.
Jackson, according to a team source, has expressed concern over Thomas’ presence at the Garden, further fueling speculation over Jackson’s future with the Knicks and whether Thomas could be in line to eventually replace Jackson as Knicks president.
“He’s not happy about it but what can he do about it,” said one Garden official, who requested anonymity. “This is just the start of it.”
Jackson should be concerned, but his five-year, $60 million contract says that his worry should only go so far.
Phil was hired to turn the franchise around, and make it a formidable and consistent playoff contender. Year one of the rebuild was a predictable disaster, as Jackson jettisoned all valuable players in order to bottom out for a high lottery pick, while clearing as much cap space as possible at the same time.
Of course, if Jackson should falter in years two and three of his deal, the Knicks may look to go in another direction. Thomas has long been a friend and confidant of Dolan’s, so his moving back into his former role once Jackson eventually vacates it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but it would create all kinds of chaos and outrage among both fans of the Knicks, as well as the local media at large.