Isiah Thomas Gone?

Woody Paige of ESPN is reporting that Thomas has been summoned to Texas to meet with James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks, and that he is going to be fired in the next couple days. Whether it happens now or later, it's inevitable. A good case can be made that this is the worst example of running a team in the history of sports, not just the NBA. You have one of the marquee teams in the league, with the most famous arena in perhaps all of sports, one of the best coaches in the history of the game, a payroll more than double the salary cap and the team still has fewer wins than any other team. That's about as bad as it gets. And now the reports are that he may go after the coaching job at IU, where he played college basketball. I don't think it'll happen. I think Randy Whitman, Thomas' teammate on the 1981 Hoosier national championship team, will get the job and I think that was already decided. And IU fans should be thankful for that. Thomas is as bad a coach as he is a general manager.


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Isiah leaving?

But he hasn't had a chance to draft Oliver Miller for $12 million a season yet.

Knick fans should be so lucky. They need to get someone in there who understands how to build a real honest-to-goodness team. Larry Brown can do it, but I don't think his style is going to mesh with the likes of Marbury and Francis. I could be wrong, he certainly helped bring Rasheed into the fold in Detroit, but 'Sheed by all accounts was a complete "Team" guy in the locker room despite his attitude with the media. I don't get that impression with Francis or Marbury.

Then again, has Brown ever had a point guard he liked and got along with? Billups did great with him, but Chauncey is a far more mature person than Iverson or either of the Knick guards.

I dunno, we'll have to wait and see, but no matter who the GM is, the Knicks have a very tough row to hoe. Thomas' legacy is going to hang over that team for a long, long time, crippling their ability to move in the free agent market or to acquire better pieces. They have no identity and are saddled with an awful lot of guys with bad attitudes. Getting rid of Thomas is a vital first step, but it's still just one step in what looks to be a very, very long road ahead.

By the way, Ed, your site still seems to hang for 15-30 seconds a lot of the time. It appears to be delaying while it accesses This also used to happen on the old server too, you might want to check with sitemeter and see if there's some kind of problem. Maybe it's just me, but it can be a pretty long wait sometimes and I don't see it happening with the other ScienceBlog guys.

The combination of throwing money away and still losing is uncanny. It truely takes talent to be this bad at something.

I'm not sure it's fair to call this the worst case of running a team ever. You need look no further than Scott Layden (Bin Layden, as some Knick fans call him) for a worse job.

Not to say that Isaiah has done a good job. But he inherited a bad, capped-out team with marginal talent and turned them into a bad, capped-out team with decent talent. The Knicks were going to be terrible for a while, and Isaiah's main mistake was thinking he could swing trades for cast-away former stars and salvage the team. He should have waited out Layden's terrible contracts, stockpiling draft picks in the meantime and focusing on young talent. He is a good talent evaluator, as his drafting has shown (stoudamire, camby, and t-mac in toronto; ariza, frye, and lee in new york). The problem is he has stupidly treated future 1st round picks like they are ebola (giving up a gang of them to get Mr. Softee aka eddy curry) and added more bad contracts to prevent them from being able to give max deals to any future stars they do draft.

ironically, the move isaiah made that most people applauded may be his worst. Larry Brown is the absolutely worst coach for the knicks right now. He has no idea how to coach young talent, as he showed in the recent World Championships where a team of Timmy Duncan/A. Stoudemire/Dwyane Wade/Lebron lost to Puerto Rico (apparently the 2-time NBA MVP and 3 best young players in the league don't play the right way). He ran Trevor Ariza out of New York and his schizophrenic minutes have shackled Frye and Lee. Bringing in Franchise didn't shake up the team -- they were already shaken up because it was mid-February and Brown still hadn't set his lineup.

All in all, Isaiah sucks as a GM. However, he hasn't done a noticably worse job than Kevin McHale (3 1st rounders so he could give an illegal under-the-table deal to Joe Smith?), Danny Ainge (blowing up an ECF team so he could stockpile marginally good, overpaid white guys), or whoever is pretending to run the Hawks.

I still don't get this "Most famous arena in all of sports" thing. I grew up 30 minutes from Manhattan and I don't see what's so special about it. Is it the simple fact that it's located in NYC? I'd rank Yankee Stadium (and a few other baseball fields) above MSG... but then, that's not technically an "arena."

By FishyFred (not verified) on 28 Feb 2006 #permalink


No doubt Scott Layden was every bit as bad a GM as Thomas is and Thomas inherited his mess. But if Thomas had been smart, he would have the Knicks back on the way up by now. Instead, they're in the same situation they were when he took over - at least 3 years away from having any hope at all because of the salary cap problems. He took an already bad situation and made it worse, and that hardly seemed possible when he got the job. I thought Layden was the worst GM ever until Thomas came along.

The situation he inherited wasn't all that bad. They did make the playoffs as I believe a 5 or 6 seed the first 1/2 year Isiah was GM, largely due to his acquiring Marbury for next to nothing. So the squad was pretty solid at that point, but that's when he just had to keep tinkering and kept adding bad contracts and this is what you wind up with.

The only bad contracts they had at the time were Allan Houston, who retired this year, Tim Thomas who's contract would have expired this year, Penny Hardaway who's contract would have expired this year, and Kurt Thomas who I believe has a couple of more years. So really they would have been in decent shape at this point.

Layden was far worse than Thomas, but Thomas has passed the point where it really matters how much worse anyone else is.

Layden was crap at drafting (although he was missing a few picks... but Slavko Vranes?), and there were rumors (unsubstantiated as far as I know) that he made the draft day deal for Antonio McDyess (and Frank Williams, HA) knowing that he wouldn't be around for an extended period of time, and that the deal was intended to buy Layden more time as GM. Like I said, just a rumor, and it doesn't make any sense for someone to buy themselves more time in such a profession, but if you're really that bad at it...

By FishyFred (not verified) on 28 Feb 2006 #permalink

I'm not sure that Isiah (just found out he doesn't spell it biblically, I've always referred to him as Zeke) made the situation worse. At least the Knicks have some young talent now and players who individually are good, although certainly not good together. I guess the question is, which is worse: (a) creating a terrible mess that will take years to clean up; or (b) inheriting such a mess and postponing the cleanup for another couple years, but maybe sweeping around the mess a little so it looks prettier.

Layden's mess was horrible. Here's the team Isiah inherited:

x- Allan Houston (albatross contract, body broken down)
x- Keith Van Horn (contract nearly as bad as Houston)
x- Shandon Anderson (terrible long-term contract)
Howard Eisley (had a couple years left on a bad contract)
Kurt Thomas (had a long-term, but not bad contract)
Dikembe Mutombo (career basically over due to injury)
Antonio McDyess (career basically over due to injury)
Charlie Ward
Othella Harrington
Michael Doleac
Frank Williams
Macej Lampe
*- Mike Sweetney (was a rookie)

x indicates long-term big contract, * indicates promising young player.

The Knicks had no cap space until 2007, only one promising young player, and the best players on the team were clearly on the downside of their careers. They were also 9 games under .500 when Isiah took over in December. Yes, they made a run to the playoffs that year, but only 2 of the 5 starters were Layden holdovers (Houston and Thomas) and 1 of them (Houston) suffered what was essentially a career-ending injury that year.

Since then, Isiah has made horrible moves and tied up the cap until 2009. However, the Knicks at least have some potentially good youngsters (Frye, Lee, Curry?) and talented players whose careers are not clearly done (Francis, Marbury). They're in a better spot now than they were when Isiah took over, despite the teams being equally garbage.