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Hiring Isiah Thomas is the worst thing a basketball team can do

Since ending his Hall of Fame playing career, Isiah Thomas has failed at every level of basketball in every job he has had. He just got hired again.

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Isiah Thomas has been named the President and part-owner of the WNBA's New York Liberty. He got this job because he is friends with James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden, which owns the Knicks and Liberty. He had previously employed Thomas as the Knicks' coach and GM.

During Thomas' time in charge of the Knicks, he took a playoff team and made them the league's most expensive team and its worst team -- a fascinating combination. He also lost a sexual harassment suit that cost MSG more than $10 million. The same person who was his boss when that happened just hired him again. (The Knicks released a statement Tuesday insisting that the jury made the incorrect decision in that case.)

His failure with the Knicks was not unique. Isiah Thomas has been an administrator, a coach, and a front office guy. He has worked in the NBA, in college, and in minor league basketball. He has failed at all of them. He has left burning piles of rubble in his wake everywhere he has been worked.

He has now found a new level of basketball to ruin, women's. We have one piece of advice, not just for the women and men of the Liberty organization, but to whomever works under Thomas when he inevitably finds a job somewhere else after crashing the Liberty into a tree.

If your team hires Isiah Thomas, run.

Toronto Raptors

Isiah Thomas was the first GM of the Toronto Raptors. He landed them some talented building blocks through the draft, selecting Tracy McGrady, Marcus Camby, and Damon Stoudemire, but the story of his tenure is one of power struggles and poor results.

He hired Brendan Malone, an assistant with the Pistons during his playing days, as the team's head coach, but publicly clashed with the first-time head coach about player development and fired him after just one year. He hired another buddy of his, Pistons teammate and fellow Chicago native Darrell Walker.

Then, Thomas started angling for more power. Unsatisfied with his 9-percent ownership stake in the team, he tried to become the team's majority owner. This did not work out, so in November 1997 -- just a few games into the year -- he sold his ownership in the team and walked out as GM.

He left the team in utter turmoil. They started the year 1-19 (including a 17-game losing streak) and ended the season with 16 wins.

As soon as Thomas left, the team began rebuilding without him. They dealt Stoudemire for a slew of veterans, Camby for Charles Oakley, and got Vince Carter in a draft day deal. None of Thomas' teams contended. After he left, they made the playoffs three straight years from 2000-2002.


Isiah Thomas bought the CBA, a minor league that had existed since 1946, for $9 million in 1999. In 2001, the CBA declared bankruptcy and folded.

Thomas convinced franchise owners that they should sell their teams to him, a nationally recognizable figure who could guide the league into the 21st century. But every business idea he had flopped. As The New York Times wrote in 2001, after the league collapsed:

In the end, his foray into league ownership became a case study in how not to run a business.

''The league office budget went from $2.1 million to $4.3 million,'' said Rich Coffey, the former general manager of the [Fort Wayne] Fury ...''Nobody in the league office, except the head of operations, knew anything about minor league sports, which is very grass-roots, something you can't cookie-cut, because each market is distinctive,'' Coffey said.

Thomas lowered player salaries -- to weed out veterans and fill his league with young, promising talent -- and gave himself a salary higher than his predecessor. Although he had promised his dedication to the league's supposedly bright future, his interest waned after less than a year. He was offered the Indiana Pacers' coaching job in June of 2000, 10 months after buying the league. But a rule prevents somebody from owning a minor league and coaching an NBA team, so he had to sell it.

The NBA offered to buy the league from Thomas. He opted not to sell, holding out for a profit on his investment. The NBA instead opted to start its own league, the present-day D-League. This robbed the league of its lifeblood, a $2 million annual payment the NBA made to retain the CBA as its official developmental league.

Thomas put the league into a blind trust to divest his interest in the league and take the Pacers' coaching job. Nobody wanted to buy it anymore. The league's cash ran out.

Because of Thomas' greed, his poor management skills, his disinterest after choosing his own career over the welfare of the CBA, a 55-year-old league died. This caused financial distress for the players, owners and front office personnel who needed the league to exist to survive. Thomas, having exhausted this world of its resources, moved onto his next host planet.

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Indiana Pacers

Isiah Thomas stepped into a great situation with the Pacers. He coached Reggie Miller's last great years. He coached teams with a spry, unstoppable Jermaine O'Neal, a vicious Ron Artest locking down opposing scorers, and Jalen Rose putting up buckets. His inexperience cost the Pacers in their prime, robbing talented teams of success.

The Pacers made the finals the year before Thomas showed up taking two games from Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers. But Larry Bird was tired of coaching, and stepped away. The Pacers hired Isiah, Bird's fellow late-'80s superstar, in his first-ever head coaching gig.

With virtually the same team, the Pacers dropped to 41-41 in his first season as coach, good for eighth place in the East. They were eighth again the next year. In his third year, they won 48 games and finished third, but still lost in the first round to the Celtics.

The year after Thomas left, the Pacers won 61 games and were the No. 1 seed in the East.

Before Isiah Thomas showed up, the Pacers were one of the NBA's best teams. After Isiah Thomas left, they went back to being one of the NBA's best teams. They made the mistake of letting Thomas coach them during this window of potential success, and they'll never get those years back.

New York Knicks

When Isiah Thomas took over as the Knicks GM in 2003, the Knicks were 39-43, good enough for a playoff spot. By the end of the 2006 season, they had the league's highest salary -- $126 million, more than twice the NBA's salary cap and almost $30 million more than the second-place team, the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks -- and the league's second-worst record, 23-59. They also didn't have their own draft pick, because they traded it away for Eddy Curry.

Thomas was not fired as GM. He was instead promoted, becoming the team's coach as well as GM.

Let's get the worst thing out of the way first. Thomas was not just a bad basketball person with the Knicks, but a bad person. Go, read the details of the sexual harassment lawsuit against Thomas that ended up with MSG paying $11.5 million to his accuser. They're not good!

The highlight happened when Isiah denied cursing at Browne Sanders and offered that "a white male calling a black female a bitch is highly offensive," but when asked if he believed it was just as offensive if a black man said the word, he confessed, "not as much." Upon leaving the courtroom after they showed the tape in court, a mortified Thomas told reporters, "Please don't mischaracterize the videotape shown in court today. I don't think it's right for any man to call a woman a 'bitch,'" then repeated those feelings on the stand by saying, "It's very offensive for any man -- black, white, purple."


According to former assistant GM Jeff Nix, a 15-year employee of the team who was recently fired, he witnessed Thomas calling Browne Sanders a "bitch" and "ho" and recalled one 2004 meeting in which Thomas yelled at Browne Sanders, "Don't forget, you f------ bitch, I'm the president of this f------ team."

(This man was just hired to run a women's basketball team.)

Somehow, this was not the nail in Thomas' coffin. He remained the Knicks' coach even after his sexual harrassment case cost them $11 million.

And in addition to that, he was also awful with the basketball part of things.

Isiah Thomas traded two first-round draft picks for Eddy Curry. Curry was a defensive sieve who couldn't rebound and struggled with his weight. In his final two seasons with the Knicks, he played in 10 combined games, and received $19 million. The two draft picks turned out to be LaMarcus Aldridge and Joakim Noah. Either one would've been worth a million Eddy Curry's.

Isiah Thomas signed Jerome James to a $30 million contract. James was a career backup. He had one good playoff run with the Sonics. For two weeks of good play, the Knicks gave him $6 million a year. He never averaged more than three points or nine minutes a game with the Knicks. His weight struggles were even worse than Curry's -- he only played four games in his final two years with the Knicks, and they still owed him $6 million the year after that. He never played in the NBA again.

Isiah Thomas traded for Steve Francis. He hoped Francis and Stephon Marbury could coexist in the same backcourt. They totally couldn't. Not only was he a bad fit -- two ball-hungry point guards in the same backcourt? -- his star was declining. He posted career-lows with the Knicks. The Knicks had to trade him a year after trading for him. And the Knicks could have let Penny Hardaway's huge salary expire, but instead took on Francis', and to get rid of him they had to take on Zach Randolph's huge salary, and the spending kept happening.

Isiah Thomas signed Jared Jeffries to a $30 million contract. Isiah Thomas saw a rule jokingly called "The Allan Houston Rule" because it was so obvious the Knicks should use it to cut Allan Houston and his $40 million albatross of a contract, and instead used it on Jerome Williams. Isiah Thomas decided to build a franchise around Stephon Marbury. Isiah Thomas used a first-round draft pick on Renaldo Balkman.

In his final season, the Knicks went 23-59, not having made the playoffs since his first year. It would take Donnie Walsh years to whittle down the Knicks' salary to the level where they could compete.

Isiah Thomas had total control of the Knicks' basketball operations. He spent a lot of money, cost them more money because of his penis, and he lost a whole ton of basketball games.

The Knicks still tried to hire him as a consultant in 2010. (David Stern had to tell them they couldn't hire an active college hoops coach.)


Isiah Thomas became the head coach of FIU in 2009. He was good at recruiting, the main thing that separates pro gigs and college ones. He even landed Dominique Ferguson, a blue chip recruit with offers from Kentucky, Duke, UCLA and other powerhouses. Sun Belt Conference teams don't pull that off very often at all.

He was bad at everything else. The team's best record in his three seasons was 11-19. In his final season, they went 8-21. They never finished better than fifth place in the Sun Belt's six-team East division.

Thomas' firing caused a ruckus. His players revolted. They walked out on a team banquet. Seven of them transferred. Ferguson declared for the NBA Draft, even though he had averaged 8.7 points in a non-major conference. He left his successor, Richard Pitino, with half a team.

Pitino still went 18-14, worlds better than even Thomas' best season.


Somehow, Isiah Thomas manages to convince people, again and again, that he's worth a shot.

He convinced CBA owners to sell him their teams. He convinced kids to play for him at FIU -- and then convinced them that his firing was a vicious wrong.

He convinced his friend, James Dolan, to give him power. And then more power. And then another job, after he'd been fired. And now a new job.

He's not worth another shot. He's a lecherous idiot who makes terrible basketball decisions. He has proven this time and time again. He will now do so one more time.

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