Isiah Thomas to Return to New York Knicks?

The NBA offseason has been highlighted by really stupid decisions: Chris Paul considering LeBron’s marketing team, the Hawks making Joe Johnson the highest-paid free agent of the year, and of course, The Decision.

But when it comes to unwise basketball decisions, how could the New York Knicks not be involved? To get into the act, the Knicks are trying to re-hire Isiah Thomas.

Yes, the Knicks’ former president and coach, the man responsible for crippling the organization for years, is in line for a consulting job with the team.

Let’s start with what should be obvious: This would be a min-boggling hire. Unless he finds a time machine and puts on a jersey, Thomas should not be allowed anywhere near a basketball program. The Indiana Pacers can attest to this. The CBA can attest to this. Florida International will soon be able to attest to this. And surely, no doubt about it, (how is this not painfully apparent?!) the New York Knicks can attest to this.

Or not. Knicks owner James Dolan must have a very short memory. That or his inner voice is awfully similar to Chris Paul’s. You know, the one that said, “Hey, I liked the way LeBron handled this whole free agency thing. I should hire his marketing people.”

The Knicks’ personnel decisions are not my concern though. What’s most troubling to me is that the NCAA and NBA would allow this. There are reports that David Stern and the league are reviewing the legality of having a college coach take a job with an NBA team. They should rule against it, though I can see why they wouldn’t be overly concerned with it.

You don’t want this man working for your basketball team in any capacity. (Credit: Keith Allison)

It’s the NCAA that should certainly be stepping in here, yet they’ve remained silent on the issue. How can they allow a college coach to advise an NBA team? How was there not a rule already in place to prevent this?

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was wrong about expansion, but he’s on the mark regarding Isiah. “It seems like a conflict,” he told the media yesterday. “You’re coaching kids and recommending them to pro guys. Well, if a pro guy comes in and asks about a kid and you’re a consultant to a different team, you wouldn’t be able to do that. You wouldn’t be able to help that kid.” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke out against it as well.

The NCAA can’t afford to allow this to happen. With big-time college athletics already having so many problems, the organization’s best bet is probably to rip up the rule book and start fresh. For now though, the course of action should be to ban Thomas, or anyone else in his position, from taking a job with an NBA team.

Two things are clear: The Knicks shouldn’t consider hiring Thomas, and such a move should not be allowed. The former is another poor decision by a misguided franchise. The latter has consequences for all of basketball.

Update, 8/12/10: Thomas has withdrawn his name from consideration for the Knicks consultant’s job. “After speaking with Commissioner [David] Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA bylaws,” Thomas said in a statement. Thumbs up for the NBA; thumbs down for the NCAA.

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