Sometimes, people can remember exactly where they were, what they were doing and what time of the day it was when momentous events happen in their lives or around the world. One of those events occurred for me on December 22, 2003. I was sitting in my mom’s car listening to WFAN Sports Radio 660 while waiting for her to get some flowers at a florist shop in New Hyde Park, New York. I was a sophomore at Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York at the time, and school had just let out for Christmas Break, so I couldn’t have been happier. However, the news conference that I was listening to made me extraordinarily happy. New York Knicks General Manager Scott Layden had just been fired, and Isiah Thomas was hired to replace him. For the six Knicks fans (including yours truly) dumb enough to stay on the bandwagon, we all remember how awful Layden was during his tenure. The former GM collected undersized power forwards (Clarence Weatherspoon, Kurt Thomas, Othella Harrington) as if they were baseball cards. Layden also traded for anemic talents (Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson) with exorbitant contracts. Worst of all, he traded Knicks legend Patrick Ewing for a washed-up Glen Rice, a bunch of nobodies, and draft picks that never amounted to anything. All in all, the son of former Utah Jazz Head Coach and GM Frank Layden was certainly not a chip off the old block, as he is infamous for collecting the parts for one of the most unathletic teams in the NBA.
That’s why I was so happy when Thomas came aboard. He was famous for some great draft picks in Toronto (Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady) and I was sure that his success in Canada as an executive would translate to wins in New York, even if he was infamous for running the Pacers into the ground as a coach and for folding the CBA as its owner.
Than again, I was 15 at the time and I didn’t know any better. Thomas made one good trade for Stephon Marbury while he was here, and that was about it. Sure, Marbury is a headcase and had sex with an intern in a parked truck in New York City, but he set the city ablaze when he was running point during is first season here, when he led the team to the playoffs. I was just thankful that the Knicks had a point guard who was able to bring the ball up the court without turning his back to the defender from the half-court line to the basket. Everything else though, has been a disaster. The Knicks were on pace to get off the salary cap after the end of last season when Thomas got on board. Now, the team won’t get there until 2010. Thomas spent two valuable Mid-Level Exceptions in back-to-back seasons on Jerome James and Jared Jefferies, two of the worst players in Knick HISTORY. The double-J twins are a disgrace Dr. Naismith’s sport, as neither of them has averaged more than four points or four rebounds a game in their five cumulative seasons in Lower Manhattan. Thomas also traded some valuable draft picks to Chicago for Yokozuma (Eddy Curry), who will be seen on ESPN this July 4th fighting for the hot dog eating title with Joey Chestnut and Kobayashi. If only he was on ESPN fighting for a Knicks playoff spot. Isiah is also responsible for the worst trade in Knicks history, as he let Penny Hardaway’s expiring contract and a young stud in Trevor Ariza go to Orlando for Steve Francis and his gargantuan paydays. This trade was so asinine that the Maroon-News actually wrote an article on just how stupid it was at the time. It was also one of the reasons why Knicks fans, myself included, took to the streets of New York and protested against Owner Jim Dolan and General Manager Isiah Thomas on the day of the draft. I actually got my picture in the New York Times in the following morning’s sports section for that protest. The Knicks already had a point guard,and they were in desperate need for cap space. Of course, I guess the Francis trade seemed like the logical move at the time for Thomas. Lastly, Thomas closed out his horrible term by trading for Zach Randolph. Evidently, Thomas never learned from his own mistakes when he brought in a shoot-first point guard to play with the shoot-first point guard that they already had. Now, Randolph and Curry were expected to play together despite being selfish, shoot-first big men. That experiment failed miserably and the team’s defense faltered this season en route to a 23-59 record.
However, what’s worst about the Thomas era was his solidification as a screwed-up pervert when former Knicks exec Anucha Browne Saunders successfully sued Thomas and Madison Square Garden for over $11,000,000 last summer. Thomas sexually harassed Saunders, calling her a “bitch” and repeatedly hitting on her when both Thomas and Saunders were married with kids. Furthermore, Thomas repeatedly disrespected Saunders’ position in the organization and screamed at her multiple times.
Yet, for whatever reason unbeknownst to anyone, Thomas was not fired for those acts. Maybe it was his comments that he would win until he died that Owner Jim Dolan appreciated. Who knows? Thomas stuck around until he was finally fired as Coach and GM of the Knicks by new Knicks President Donnie Walsh, but he was mercifully given a smaller role in the organization. Maybe Thomas can go write more books with his spare time, such as a follow-up to his 2002 masterpiece, 8 Fundamentals to Winning the Games of Business and Life.
At the end of the day, Thomas not only oversaw the worst era of Knicks basketball in its 62-season history, but he also solidified himself as one of the biggest and most inept jerks in New York sports history. Good riddance.