Is Isiah Thomas the once and future king of the New York Knicks? Doubtful. Possibly. Maybe? With team president Donnie Walsh looking for his successor, the search has apparently narrowed to two people: Thomas and former Knick Allan Houston.
ESPN reports that Houston, who spent the past year as a "special assistant to the president" as Walsh's protegé, was the front-runner for the job. The 39-year old Houston accompanied the Knicks on their free agent trips this past summer is reporteldy on good terms with owner James Dolan and head coach Mike D'Antoni, and would certainly seem to be a fine choice. Still, rumors persist that longtime Dolan favorite Isiah Thomas remains in the mix for the job.
Thomas raised eyebrows several weeks ago when he intimated that he would only leave the college coaching ranks for a job as an NBA GM. Thomas assessed his record as a GM thusly:
I think that's where my skill is -- the evaluation of talent, putting teams together. That's what I'm good at.
Coaching? The jury is still out. I coached five years in the NBA and had three winning seasons in Indiana, went to the playoffs every year, and two losing seasons in New York.
Self-awareness is apparently not one of Thomas' skills; if there was a single thing his run in New York proved, it's that assembling an NBA team is not one of his strengths. To be fair, Thomas did have more than a few astute draft choices during his tenure (Trevor Ariza, David Lee, Wilson Chandler), but he also had some notable flubs (like taking Renaldo Balkman a spot ahead of Rajon Rondo when point guard was a desperate need). And that's not even mentioning his abysmal record with trades and free agency (Stephon Marbury, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Jared Jeffries, Steve Francis, etc.). Calling his reign an unmitigated disaster is probably being a bit generous, considering that he left New York with simultaneously one of the highest payrolls and worst rosters in the league. Oh, and as a parting gift, the Knicks lost their lottery pick this past year as the final piece of the ill-conceived trade for Marbury.
And yet, despite that record of incompetence, there's a chance Thomas could be back. Knicks owner Jim Dolan has also been enamored of Thomas, and that continues to this day -- as the New York Daily New's Frank Isola notes -- to the point that Thomas reportedly believes he has the best chance at the gig of anyone. Already, some of Thomas' allies in the New York media are suggesting that Thomas' relationships make him the best bet to swing a trade for Chris Paul, and pushing a revisionist history that had Thomas been in charge, LeBron James would have come to the Knicks. These may all seem like laughable propositions, but the Knicks did reach out to Thomas as a Hail Mary during their LeBron recruitment, so there is clearly still some relationship there between he and Dolan.
Is this all baseless speculation pushed by Thomas and his friends? I would say yes...but with Dolan, you never really know. Stay tuned.