Isiah Thomas Named President of New York Liberty: Latest Details, Reaction

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2015

BROOKLYN, NY - JUNE 26: Isiah Thomas talks during the 2014 NBA Draft on June 26, 2014 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Jesse. D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Seven years after his tumultuous tenure as New York Knicks president of basketball operations came to an end, Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas is back in charge of a basketball franchise in the Big Apple.

Thomas has joined the WNBA's New York Liberty as the team's president while also taking an ownership interest. WNBA president Laurel Richie provided a statement to Travis Durkee of Sporting News, noting that the move is pending WNBA approval:

The Madison Square Garden organization announced that Isiah Thomas has been named president of the New York Liberty and that he will take an ownership interest in the team, pending WNBA approval. New owners are approved by our WNBA Board of Governors, and this process has not yet begun.

The Liberty confirmed the news in a press release, in which owner James Dolan commented on the hire:

In the fall, Isiah and I began discussions about a possible role for him with the Liberty. Since that time, Isiah has been advising the team, and we are very pleased with the results. He has overseen the strengthening of our coaching staff, with the return of three-time WNBA Champion head coach Bill Laimbeer and the hiring of Herb Williams as assistant coach, as well as our recent free agent signings, draft strategy, trade for Epiphanny Prince and the return of Liberty legend, Teresa Weatherspoon. Now, we've agreed that it is time for him to take a lead role with the team as president, and through his ownership interest. He's an excellent judge of talent, and I'm confident that he will put all of his energy and experience into making the Liberty a perennially competitive and successful team.

Thomas also commented on the decision to join the Liberty and the task ahead of him:

I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the New York Liberty and help the franchise reclaim its position as one of the elite teams in the WNBA. Following a conversation with Jim about his thoughts on the franchise, I expressed my interest and enthusiasm for taking responsibility for both the basketball and business operations, as well as for taking an ownership interest in the team. To me, basketball is basketball. These women are outstanding athletes who want to compete for a championship in New York. I look forward to this challenge – not just to win a title, but also to help broaden the team's fanbase.

ESPN.com's Chris Broussard was the first to report the 54-year-old former Detroit Pistons star was joining the organization:

Chris Broussard @Chris_Broussard

Sources: Isiah Thomas has been named President of the New York Liberty of the WNBA. Thomas will also have part ownership of the team.

The move doesn't come without controversy for the organization.

Connecticut Sun head coach Anne Donovan shared her reaction the news, via John Altavilla of the Hartford Courant:

This is a decision, at least to me, that comes out of left field. That's great. But we're talking about someone who has been a part of a sexual harassment in the work environment issue. It's tough to swallow that he's going to be a part of the women's team. I am so glad I'm not there [coaching]. I've thought about that every day [since the decision]. It would be hard for me to gear up and go to work everyday and feel good about it.

Thomas was found to have sexually harassed a Madison Square Garden employee in 2007 when he was working for the New York Knicks. 

Ian Begley of ESPN provided a statement from the Knicks, who spoke about the matter on Tuesday: 

Ian Begley @IanBegley

Statement from the #Knicks on the Anucha Browne Sanders trial and new Liberty president Isiah Thomas: http://t.co/wqtxusoz5N

As a personnel man, Thomas has failed to find success, including failed stints in Toronto and the run with the Knicks. In New York, Thomas at one point operated as president of basketball operations and head coach, amassing a record of 56-108, including a 23-59 record in 2007-08.

The Liberty play at MSG, and Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated is among those who are questioning the hiring by Dolan:

Richard Deitsch @richarddeitsch

An Isiah Thomas/WNBA partnership would be absolutely horrible news for the WNBA but par for the course for James Dolan.

Hiring Thomas is a move that will certainly bring attention to the organization, and fans who remember his last stop in New York will be looking to see if he can finally find on-court success while avoiding the controversy and scandal that followed him.

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