Nice work if you can get it
Isiah keeps punching clock despite all his missteps
Posted: Wednesday October 3, 2007 3:19PM; Updated: Wednesday October 3, 2007 4:16PM
With his sexual harassment trial over, Knicks president/coach Isiah Thomas boarded a plane to South Carolina on Tuesday and met his team for training camp.
Imagine the conversation he could have had with his players upon arriving: "Hey, fellas, you think you cost the company some money the other day when you killed the shrimp platter on the corporate jet? ... I just took it down for $11.6 million!"
That should be good for some yuks around the Gatorade jug.
The question many sports fans around the country are asking themselves is, How in the world does Thomas still have a job?
Tuesday's ruling that he sexually harassed a former team executive should be enough for MSG to pull the plug on his tenure. After all, it's not like the Knicks have been a raging success with him in charge anyway.
In his four years as team president, Thomas has done little to revive the fortunes of one of the league's flagship franchises. Mostly he has shuffled the deck while continuing to add fat contracts. His high-profile moves have produced great fanfare -- and little results.
Lenny Wilkens. Larry Brown. Jerome James. Steve Francis. Unmitigated disasters, each and every one. Costly ones, too. Brown alone cost the Knicks a reported $28 million, including his buyout. For one season of coaching.
Incredibly, however, Thomas has not only survived but also prospered. Last year MSG chairman Jim Dolan handed him a multiyear contract extension.
Never mind that Thomas had failed to meet Dolan's win-or-else ultimatum prior to the season. Apparently, New York's modest improvement from the depths of the Brown disaster was enough to convince Dolan that the franchise was back on the right track. Of course, the Knicks fell out of the playoff race shortly after the ink had dried on Thomas' new deal.
Dolan must not care much that MSG, under Thomas' watch, has taken more hits to its bottom line than seemingly all the housing lenders in the nation combined. Just last season the Knicks spent roughly $110 million in payroll for a team that finished 33-49. The franchise spent another $45 million in luxury-tax penalties.
Just how far out of the NBA stratosphere were the Knicks when it came to spending? The next highest luxury-tax-paying team was Dallas, which paid $7 million. For that, Mark Cuban at least got to watch a squad that was terrific in the regular season.
But Isiah just kept smiling through it all -- then came the ugly three-week sexual harassment trial. The married father of two vehemently denies he did anything wrong, but the jury was clear. It said Thomas subjected his accuser, a married mother of three, to unwanted advances and a barrage of verbal insults.
Those actions helped drag Thomas' employer through the mud, forced his boss to take the stand and cost MSG and Dolan that $11.6 million for damages. It's the kind of poor judgment that would probably get any other executive fired on the spot.
It's not as if Thomas hasn't already been involved in other embarrassing episodes. Last year he helped precipitate the Knicks-Nuggets brawl by engaging in trash talk on the court with some of the Denver players. He also traded words with Spurs forward Bruce Bowen during a game, and ripped ESPN commentator Greg Anthony.
As Thomas convenes with his players this week in South Carolina, he should be relieved he still has a job. Dolan must see something in him that nobody else does. Either that or the MSG honcho is just too embarrassed to admit he was wrong to have given Thomas that contract extension in the first place.