Isiah Thomas: “I don’t want to be the President of the New York Knicks.”
With the polarizing voice that Stephen A. Smith projects he presented the question that was on everyone’s mind for Isiah Thomas: If your friend, the billionaire, Mr.Dolan, picked up the phone, called you and said ‘I want you back in the same position you had before. What you would you say?’ The chief fear among Knicks fans across the globe is please don’t tell me that Isiah Thomas is coming back to New York and has influence among basketball decisions again.
Thomas contends he really only had one bad year of running the New York Knicks. Words that would make a Knicks fan cringe upon hearing them go through their earlobes. Donnie Walsh was essentially ordered by the NBA to come in and gut out the mess that was the New York Knicks in April of 2008. He immediately came in recognizing the expensive long-term contracts on the books for the Knicks and was able to maneuver his way through a plethora of trades and open some cap space. Walsh helped revitalize a basketball culture in the World’s Most Famous Arena and brought in a leader in Amar’e Stoudemire and top scoring threat in Carmelo Anthony. The news of Donnie Walsh’s “mutual” parting as President of Basketball Operations and one year lease as team consultant this year should come as no surprise. The rumors have always been that Thomas still has an influence on Knicks owner James Dolan, but in the following interview you’ll hear Thomas sound sincere in not wanting to return with the Knicks in any role, but we’ll soon find out if what we’re hearing is material that Knicks fans should believe.
Isiah Thomas joined ESPN New York on the Stephen A. Smith Showto discuss his initial feelings upon hearing that Donnie Walsh was stepping down as the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations and General Manger, his relationship with Donnie Walsh, specific examples that showcase his good relationship with Donnie Walsh, his relationship with James Dolan and the input he gave to Dolan on Donnie Walsh, his reactions to accusations that Donnie Walsh didn’t sign back on as the Knicks President/GM due to the fact that he wanted full autonomy on all basketball decisions, working with the Knicks organization again, being President of the Knicks again and returning as coach of the Knicks.
Your thoughts upon hearing that Donnie Walsh was stepping down as the Knicks President and General Manager?
“When I first heard it my first thought was that Donnie [Walsh] did a great job. He’s been a great basketball man in the game of basketball. It’s losing a great mind if he doesn’t work for another organization. The things he stood for, the way he conducted himself, the way he conducted business. He did a great job with the [Indiana] Pacers. He did a great job here with the Knicks. He was always good to everyone and he truly represented class.”
A lot of people wonder your relationship with Jim Dolan, but the better question to ask is what is your relationship with Donnie Walsh?
“Donnie and I have always had a great relationship. When he got here to New York, he and I, we were working together for a brief moment then I went to college. He always tried to communicate. I’ve always tried to help him. I’ve tried to help the Knicks. I believe he always tried to help me.”
What could you specifically point out to that could illuminate you had a good relationship with Donnie Walsh?
“He gave me my first job, coaching job, in the NBA. I coached the Indiana Pacers for three years. We went to the playoffs. We had a very young team. He trusted me with building young players and developing the Jermaine O’Neal’s and the Ron Artest’s and the Al Harrington’s and the Brad Miller’s and the Jamaal Tinsley’s. He trusted me with helping those guys develop and along the way we always stayed in touch when I left Indiana. He always had very kind things to say. I’ve always tried to reciprocate that.”
Describe your relationship with James Dolan and specifically the input you gave to him on Donnie Walsh?
“I would tell you that he and I are great friends. The conversation that he and I had or that I have with any of my friends those are very private conversations and I don’t feel the need to share those conversations with the public.”
What does Isiah Thomas say to the accusations that Donnie Walsh wouldn’t sign back on as the Knicks President and General Manager because he wanted James Dolan to give him full autonomy on all basketball decisions potentially without your input? The accusations say you have a relationship with James Dolan and Donnie Walsh felt circumvented because of it? What do you have to say about that? “I never heard Donnie [Walsh] say that. I never heard Jim [Dolan] say that. You never heard me say that. I do think all of us have lived long enough and we’ve done enough in our respective industries that our word should be taken and should be trusted.”
Do you want to be back with the New York Knicks organzation?
“I don’t want to be the President of the New York Knicks. That’s not what I’m angling for. In terms of being in the NBA or working in an NBA organization I’ve said this before at some point in time I would like to return to the NBA and I would like to continue in the NBA, but at this time my focus is at FIU [Florida International University] and working in college and working with the kids that I’m working with.”
Why do you not want to be the President of the New York Knicks or for any team?
“I…not necessarily any team, but I would just say in this situation right now you know what with what went on with myself and my family and the toll that it took on just my family here in New York. It was just difficult for us and we had a very difficult time. I don’t know if I would want to go through that again.” Let me just make this clear for the listeners out there. Are you trying to say that if your friend, the billionaire, Mr.Dolan, picked up the phone, called you and said ‘I want you back in the same position you had before you’d likely say no?’ “I probably would because I think I could help him…I would try to help him in other ways. I just don’t know if my skin…I don’t know if my family and myself… I don’t if we could all go through that again. It was very difficult for all of us during that period of time and I wouldn’t want to go through that again.”
What about being the coach of the Knicks?