Could Isiah return to the Knicks?
How much is enough?
Whether you love, hate, like or are totally apathetic to the New York Knicks, one has to be impressed with the loyal fanbase.
The Knicks are not annual winners like the New York Yankees or the New York Giants, they're not a totally hapless franchise that always loses nor are they victims playing second fiddle to another team in the same city in which they reside.
The Knicks last won a championship in 1973; a 40th anniversary without a title that not one fan will want to celebrate could take place next spring. Yet the fans have remained, even through some rough patches. The Knicks draw well at Madison Square Garden and are newsworthy nearly 365 days a year in the Big Apple.
Those fans could probably lay blame in any number of places for the team's lack of rings since 1973.
Over the more recent years, specifically since the dawn of the 21st century, the blame can be placed most prominently on the shoulders of two individuals.
One is the chairman of Madison Square Garden and the Knicks' majority owner, James Dolan.
The other is NBA Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas. Thomas was the president of basketball operations for the Knicks from December 22, 2003, until April 2, 2008.
The four-plus years Thomas spent in control of the day-to-day operations of the Knicks were tumultuous and noted for their distinct lack of on-court success.
Thomas had his off-court issues as well.
He was named a defendant in a sexual harassment lawsuit that resulted in Madison Square Garden paying out $11.6 million in damages.
Thomas' legacy with the Knicks is tainted, and there are few fans who could see a Thomas return to the operations of the team as anything but a disaster waiting to happen.
Yet that might just happen.
In a recent New York Daily News article, writer Frank Isola revealed that the biggest obstacle to Thomas returning to a position in the Knicks organization is neither his past record nor the owner's lack of interest.
No, the biggest obstacle is actually Thomas himself!
That's right—Thomas is hesitant to return to the Knicks organization. The owner? He appears quite receptive to the idea:
According to a source close to the former Knicks president, Thomas and Garden chairman James Dolan have had numerous discussions about a position in the organization, but Thomas has been reluctant to accept the job offer.
When James Dolan took over as the man in charge of the Knicks, the franchise had not won any rings in recent years. There was plenty of success, though.
The Knicks of the 1990s played in two NBA Finals (1994 and 1999), made annual trips to the postseason and actually won postseason games as well.
The Knicks of the 21st century have not experienced success in doses even close to that of their 1990s counterparts.
The current team does appear to be on a path toward increased success, though.
New York has two big-time offensive threats in Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. It has some experienced veterans, such as Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby. The Knicks also have guys that can knock down three-point shots, such as Steve Novak and J.R. Smith. Add in second-year defensive whiz Iman Shumpert, and Knicks fans have reasons for optimism.
So why on earth would the team's owner, the man who should in theory want the Knicks to win more than anyone on the planet, re-hire a man who failed miserably in every aspect of management and took a Knicks team that was a perennial playoff presence and turned it into an annual lottery participant?
Why would Dolan do this? If he does, how could Knicks fans sit by idly and continue to root for the team?
No owner is without fault. All sports have owners that are considered overbearing or meddling.
See the Dallas Cowboys and their current owner, Jerry Jones, or the New York Yankees and the late George Steinbrenner.
Even if you hate both those teams, each franchise did a fair amount of winning under the leadership of its owner.
That's not the case in New York, and the lowest parts of the James Dolan era came while the Knicks were being run by Dolan and Thomas together.
If Dolan brings back Thomas, Knicks fans could revolt, and while that would seem like an overreaction in the face of a singular personnel decision (akin to the Jeremy Lin episode this past July), in this case it would be a valid response.
Thomas has already had a wildly unsuccessful stint in the Knicks organization. He's proven to be subpar when it comes to coaching, drafting, trading and free-agent signing. He's clearly not a model citizen around the office either.
Rehiring Isiah Thomas would be like drinking spoiled milk, putting it back in the fridge and then grabbing the same container over four years later to see if the milk had improved.
The milk won't improve; the Knicks probably won't improve either.
And the fans?
Well, the fans won't drink or smell spoiled milk for too long before they pour it down the drain and find something else to quench their thirst.