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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Friday / July 19.
  • After Latest Isiah Affair, Nobody Looks Good

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    NEW YORK — After the latest chapter in the “Chronicles of Isiah,” nobody comes out looking good.

    Not the NBA.

    Not Isiah Thomas.

    And most certainly not Jim Dolan and the New York Knicks.

    Twenty-four hours after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim — two of the most well respected men in the college basketball world — publicly called out the many  conflicts of interest inherent in having a Division 1 head coach also consulting for the Knicks, Thomas on Wednesday “rescinded” the agreement.

    “After speaking with Commissioner Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA bylaws,” Thomas, the head coach at Florida International, said in a statement. “Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Jim Dolan, Donnie Walsh, Mike D’Antoni and the entire Knicks organization, and I want to thank them for affording me this opportunity.”

    Thomas, the former Knicks GM and coach, was hired as a consultant last Friday even though he also serves as the head coach at FIU.

    After initially approving the arrangement, Stern and the NBA flip-flopped.

    The NBA nudged Thomas away from the Knicks after a huge public outcry about the many conflicts of interest involved.

    “We have been informed by the Knicks that Isiah Thomas has rescinded his consulting agreement with the team,” Commissioner Stern said in a statement. “As a result, it is not necessary for the league to take any formal action on the proposed arrangement. However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft.”

    Still, Dolan appeared to buck Stern and his many critics by saying he still plans to “solicit [Thomas’s] views” anyway.

    “Although I’m disappointed that Isiah will not be working with the Knicks as a consultant, I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent,” Dolan said. “He’s a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team. We wish him continued success at FIU.”

    As long as that is the case, Dolan, Thomas and the Knicks will always be viewed as not playing on a level playing field.

    Can other NBA franchises trust Thomas’s assessments of his and other college players if he “always has strong ties to [Dolan] and the [Knicks]?”

    Can the Sixers, Celtics or Nets, or any NBA franchise for that matter, expect ever to get a straight answer from him on a prospect?

    The short answer is no.

    On the college level, should other coaches continue to believe that Thomas possesses an allegiance and agenda that gives him a recruiting advantage?

    Absolutely.

    When Thomas walks into a recruit’s home, he can continue to tell them, “Hey, not only am I recruiting you to FIU, but I can guarantee the Knicks will take a look at you….You know, because the owner says I have ‘strong ties to the team.'”

    Once again Isiah is embroiled in a failed and ultimately controversial situation.

    And once again Dolan appears to have bungled his way through a big spot.

    After hiring Donnie Walsh in 2008 to clean up Isiah’s mess and get the Knicks under the salary cap, Dolan let Walsh know he wanted to bring Isiah back to look over his shoulder.

    Now the Knicks’ owner has publicly embarrassed the proud Walsh and been forced to issue a half-hearted 180.

    “I also believe Donnie Walsh has done a terrific job since joining the Knicks and my tremendous respect for him has only grown since he’s joined the organization,” Dolan said. “I’m confident that the work that Donnie, Coach Mike D’Antoni and their staffs have done this summer has the team poised for long-term success.”

    If the Knicks do achieve long-term success, it will be in spite of Thomas, who had a dismal run as team president from December 2003-April 2008. The team never won a postseason game despite often having the league’s highest payroll. After coaching for two seasons, Thomas was fired after going 23-59 season in 2007-08.

    Thomas also cost MSG $11.6 million in the sexual harassment lawsuit  brought by former team employee Anucha Browne Sanders.

    “One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn’t perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge,” Thomas said. “I take full responsibility for that. I was very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to help the organization do what I do best: find basketball talent. I wish the team nothing but success in the future.”

    Nobody can claim success after this latest mess.

    Not David Stern.

    Not Isiah Thomas.

    And most certainly not the New York Knicks.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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