Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘New York Knicks’ Category

The Race Is Soon To Be On: LB Against Isiah For Another Coaching Job

In Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown, NBA, New York Knicks on April 4, 2008 at 2:26 pm

OK, so who’ll get another NBA coaching job first: Isiah Thomas or Larry Brown?

Brown is acting like a strung-out morphine addict. He was quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer thusly: “I’ve got to figure out if I can get a coaching job. I want to get back so bad. I’m so bored.”

Geez. I don’t know whether to laugh, feel sorry for him, or order him under a suicide watch.

There’s more.

“I just miss it. After my last experience (with the Knicks in ’05-’06), I just want to go where I can do a better job and move forward.”

I haven’t seen a lobby for an NBA coaching job this brazen since Dickie Vitale ran around Detroit, telling anyone who’d listen (or even those who didn’t) that he wanted to coach the Pistons, some 30 years ago. Vitale’s campaign — aided conveniently by the Detroit media — was successful, a lot more so than his actual coaching stint.

Should Brown be allowed back onto an NBA sideline? Well, professional sports are filled with enough stool pigeon owners that this is certainly a possibility. The ironic thing — and what isn’t good for Brown’s aspirations — is that the kind of team he’d fit best with is a veteran-laden club that is oh-so-close to a championship; so close that they can taste it. But this is also the kind of team that Brown could do the most damage to; he’s likely to barge in and start fixing things rather than tweak them. He’s a human double-edged sword, Larry Brown is.

Brown: he just loves this SOO much

And a young team would be foolish to hire Brown, if only because the coach might commit Hari Kari before the year was done.

So the verdict, Mr. Eno?

Brown finds a sucker someday and gets something, anything. His coaching thirst will be quenched. He’ll do more damage than good, but at least he wouldn’t be bored — until he gets canned less than two years later.

Thomas will soon be out of work, too. If Donnie Walsh, the Knicks’ new Lord of The Hoop, is even one-eighth the genius he purportedly is, he’ll can Zeke. If he doesn’t, then Walsh should have his stripes yanked off his Armani suit. Only dumb-dumbs keep odiferous reminders of a losing tradition when they’re hired with the expressed directive to blow things up and do “whatever’s necessary” to right the ship.

Strangely, I think Thomas might actually find a coaching job sooner than the desperate Brown, who he fired from the Knicks two years ago. Isiah can actually coach a bit, and an expulsion from New York would be a good thing for him, frankly. He’s the opposite of Brown; Thomas would fit well with a younger, smaller market team that is more apt to listen to him with wide-eyed eagerness, as opposed to eye-rolling disdain, as the Knicks players tend to do with him.

There was a time when I was certain Thomas would surface in Bloomington, Ind., as the coach of his alma mater Hoosiers. That’s now not going to happen, with IU hiring Tom Crean the other day.

Thomas and Brown will both be back in the NBA, coaching someone someday. But Isiah should never be allowed the keys to another team’s executive washroom ever again. After his shenanigans with the Raptors, the CBA, and the Knicks, you’d think that would be a no-brainer type of declaration.

You’d THINK.

Life Out Of Sneakers Unkind To Isiah

In Isiah Thomas, NBA, New York Knicks, Pistons on December 2, 2007 at 4:15 pm

He’s done so many things wrong since he traded in his sneakers for wing-tipped shoes, has folded so many times in the clutch, that you almost forget that there was a time when Isiah Thomas owned the tensest moments of any big basketball game.

Almost always it was true – when Isiah would take over – doing what the so-called experts said could not be done, which was to be a little man and lead a team to an NBA championship.

There wasn’t any question that Thomas, just 20 years old, was the most spectacular player available in the 1981 draft. He was coming off an NCAA title with Indiana University, and would be, after only two years in college, either the first or second pick overall.

The Dallas Mavericks held the first pick off the board.

The Mavs fancied small forward Mark Aguirre, a Chicagoland friend of Thomas’s, from DePaul University. It was a toss-up as to whether the Mavericks would pick the scorer Aguirre or the playmaker Thomas.

“Isiah was the more complete player,” Jack McCloskey, Pistons GM at the time, told me last year in a telephone interview. “We knew we’d absolutely take him if the Mavericks didn’t. I knew we needed the creativity that Isiah provided.”

So the Mavs took Aguirre, and McCloskey snapped up Thomas, and almost as soon as he did, the naysayers were out.

It was still the era of the Big Man in the NBA. It didn’t help that, two years earlier, the Los Angeles Lakers drafted themselves a 6-foot-9 point guard, Magic Johnson. History has told us that when the Boston Celtics battled first the Philadelphia 76ers, and then the Lakers for league supremacy in the late-1960s, early-1970s, you might as well forget the other eight players on the court – the real duel was between Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain, the two centers. The two big men. Both teams had Hall of Fame players galore, but Celtics-Sixers/Celtics-Lakers boiled down to Russell-Chamberlain.

No way, the basketball masses said, could you ever hope to build a championship team around a 6-foot-1 point guard.

McCloskey was a Big Man guy. Height fascinated him, to a fault. There was a seven-foot jewel named Ralph Sampson, dominating at Virginia, when Thomas went pro. But Sampson elected to stay in school. Had he come out, McCloskey would have drooled. And after looking at Ralph Sampson’s pro career, I’ll bet McCloskey thanks his lucky stars that Sampson opted to stay in college in 1981.

So McCloskey went to work, trying to build a championship team around a Little Man. It took him eight years, but he did it. One of the final pieces he added, via trade, was a scoring small forward named Mark Aguirre.

That McCloskey succeeded was because Isiah Thomas, all six-foot-one of him, wouldn’t have it any other way. If he had to score, he scored. If he had to pass the ball, he passed the ball. And when a game needed to be seized, he did that, too. He smiled a lot in those days, his cherubic face hiding the heart of an assassin.

Now, though, Thomas can do little right. And he doesn’t smile as much.

His missteps actually began before he even officially retired as a player.

Filled with some sort of jingoism, Thomas announced, prematurely, that he had an agreement with Pistons owner Bill Davidson to be involved mightily in the team’s front office after his playing days. Only, there never really was such an arrangement, and the public proclamation irritated Davidson to no end. And Thomas then learned what the last great Pistons guard before him, David Bing, learned about 20 years earlier: Bill Davidson had little use for nostalgia and history if he felt slighted. Bing had held out for more money in 1974, Davidson’s first year of ownership. This was against the businessman’s grain. A year later, Davidson traded Bing.

So there was no place at The Palace for Isiah when he retired. His spot in the front office would be taken a few years later by his backcourt mate, Joe Dumars.

The Midas Touch was gone from Isiah’s hands in retirement. First he tried to resuscitate the Continental Basketball Association, which was kind of like AAA-ball for the NBA. He finagled his way into a commissioner-like role with the league, and the results were less than impressive.

Next up was an executive position with the Toronto Raptors. Isiah was back in the NBA. His few years in Toronto were very forgettable. Thomas was now 2-for-2 in leaving a basketball entity in worse shape than when he found it.

Rare post-playing smiles: Thomas breaking out with the Raptors (above) and celebrating a birthday with the Pacers (below)

Make it 3-for-3. The Indiana Pacers were next in Isiah’s path of destruction. He was a GM. Then he was a coach. Then Larry Bird took the keys to the executive washroom, and he and Isiah didn’t see eye-to-eye, a carryover from their playing days. Bird soon dismissed Thomas.

Today, Isiah is fiddling around with the New York Knicks, once one of the proudest franchises in the entire NBA. They’ve been a mess for awhile, and in fairness, they were out of sorts a bit when Isiah arrived a few years ago. But he hasn’t done anything to stop the blood flow. First he was strictly a GM, then he was told to coach the team, too, if he wanted any chance to hold on to his job.

The results on the court have not been for the squeamish, but even worse has been what’s gone on off the court.

There was a suit brought by a former female employee, accusing Thomas of sexual harassment. Out of those proceedings came the allegation that Thomas apparently saw fit to call certain women “bitches” – and without remorse, pending the circumstance.

Then, two weeks ago, guard Stephon Marbury inexplicably left the team for a couple of days, with little to no explanation. When he returned, Thomas reinserted him into the starting lineup, as if nothing had happened. Marbury was fined $200,000, but that was done by the team. Serious concerns were raised about Thomas’s leniency, when the mere thought of pulling a stunt like that in his playing days would have been folly.

The other night, the Celtics destroyed Thomas’s Knicks, 104-59. Total annihilation. His team fell to 4-10 on the season.

Isiah Thomas has now been retired as a player for about as long as he was employed by the Pistons. Nothing much has gone right for him in Armani. Can’t blame this one on his height, though.

Knicks On Another Bumpy Ride, Led By Isiah

In NBA, New York Knicks on November 21, 2007 at 3:20 pm

You know your NBA team is in trouble when you wish for its coach to sexually harrass someone again to divert attention from the product on the court.

The New York Knicks could use another Isiah Thomas-driven distraction right about now — since they seem unwilling to fire him.

The words “Knicks” and “turmoil” are starting to go together like peanut butter and jelly. Or, more appropriately, like flies and sh*t.

They’re in town tonight, those dysfunctional, lovable Knicks. They flew into Metro Airport with a 2-8 record, after being dismantled at home by the Golden State Warriors, 108-82.

Training camp began with a cloud already formed over the team, in the form of the fallout from coach Thomas’s legal troubles stemming from accusations of a fired employee who said Thomas groped her and called her “bitch.”

Then starting point guard Stephon Marbury left the team briefly last week, and was fined nearly $200,000. With little to no explanation of his behavior, Marbury was nonetheless re-installed into the starting lineup, as if nothing happened.

Now the Knicks are working hard on a seven-game losing streak.

Last year, Thomas was given an ultimatum by boss James Dolan to significantly improve the Knicks or be fired. The team again finished below .500, but showed just enough, apparently, for Dolan to give Isiah another chance. And that chance would come with newly-acquired Zach Randolph, the big man Isiah craved.

Yet the record is worse after 10 games this season than it was last campaign.

And there’s absolutely no sign of the turbulence that continually surrounds the Knicks letting up any time soon.

Pro basketball is a game born out of the cigar smoke-filled arenas in Philadelphia, New York, Syracuse, and Boston. In places like Madison Square Garden, for example.

Once, that arena was considered a sort of hoops Mecca. Championships were won there, and the Knicks were one of the few teams that could even hope to interrupt the latest string of Celtics domination with dominance of their own.

Now, the New York Knicks are a joke. Their arena, even, is besmirched, because the young lady who brought charges against Thomas was an employee of the Knicks’ parent company, which uses the MSG name as its foundation.

I don’t know about cigar smoke, but they sure are toking on something in the Knicks offices, as long as they continue to let Isiah Thomas coach their ballclub.

The Knicks will be the fourth basketball entity that Thomas will leave in worse shape than when he found it, joining the CBA, the Toronto Raptors, and the Indiana Pacers. Only the Detroit Pistons, as a player, did Isiah improve by his mere presence. And that team was 21-61 before he joined it.

The New York Knicks are in town tonight, coached by their Thanksgiving turkey. The Pistons should feast this evening.