At first, it was funny. Knicks being Knicks. James Dolan being James Dolan. Isiah Thomas, again, thinking he’ll be good at something he’ll most assuredly fail at. Madison Square Garden (read: James Dolan) hired Isiah to run the WNBA’s New York Liberty, despite Thomas having absolutely no experience in women’s basketball in either the pro or collegiate ranks, and despite his well-documented strikeouts suffered while running the Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks.
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Then, late on Thursday afternoon, it became something to get angry about:
Clarification: this statement on the Anucha Brown Sanders trial & Isiah Thomas came from Madison Square Garden: pic.twitter.com/PEa7MuQlk8
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 5, 2015
This is textbook entitlement.
The statement, released by MSG, was in reference to the sexual harassment suit that cost MSG and Cablevision (the companies Dolan inherited) $11.6 million. It is absolutely true that Thomas was not personally hit with a punitive penalty, but it is also absolutely true that he and Dolan created an atmosphere that allowed for eight-figures worth of sexual harassment to take place.
The unyielding back-slapping and continued entitlement amongst the undeserved elite in this situation is maddening and, depending on your toleration for cynicism, expected.
Replace the names, if you don’t believe me.
“I don’t care what she said that Jennings did. Even if Jennings did what she said he did, it doesn’t bother me. Jennings is a good man. I don’t care that they’re upset at Jennings, who are they to judge him? He’s my friend. I’ve known Jennings for years. Jennings deserves a place in this company, and on this board.”
We’re at a personal level at this point in the relationship, because as Dan Devine noted prior to the release of this statement, there is absolutely nothing in Isiah Thomas’ two-decades of post-playing history that would lead any sound (or even really crummy) basketball mind to believe that he is worth employing as an owner, coach, or executive.
He was fidgety and ineffective in Toronto. As a coach in Indiana his teams routinely underachieved and he ignored obvious and winning lineups. In 18 months he destroyed what the CBA took 53 years to build prior to his purchase of the league. Upon leaving the Knicks, he was easily and rightfully the most-mocked NBA executive in league history. Not content with that, while working as New York Ghost GM in 2011 he just about handed the Denver Nuggets what turned out to be a 57-win team in exchange for a star in Carmelo Anthony that the Knicks could have just signed outright the following offseason.
This much is in place. What we’re dealing with now is sickening entitlement. That word cannot be used enough.
The NBA is not averse to cronyism. The placement isn’t as bad as it was a decade ago, but those who have failed before are rarely without NBA options (unless you draft both Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn directly before Stephen Curry) later on, and those that are bereft of options can always settle on the long arm of the NBA’s many media outlets. Just look at how many former coaches dot NBA TV’s current roster, including one Isiah Lord Thomas.
Isiah could not get a job with any other team, however. With Knick president and longtime Thomas combatant Phil Jackson already in place, Dolan was left to ruin another one of the many ruined entities that have gone belly-up under his watch – the Liberty. He is now asking Thomas to familiarize himself with potentially 150-some women that he likely has no clue about. With WNBA economics. With its vast coaching ranks (ranks that dip over to the NCAA far more often than the NBA does). With the international back and forth.
I watch the WNBA quite a bit. I go to several WNBA games a season. Without the aid of a computer, I do not recall who won the WNBA Finals last year, and yet I could hum the guitar solo from “Two Princes” from memory. This league isn’t a quick follow. This is a big, complicated league that isn’t to be treated as a playground, for a would-be legend in hiding, slumming amongst the shorter set.
Adding the lead voice in a sexual harassment conviction to a prime executive position in a woman’s league because two men (just two, because that’s all it takes amongst the 1 percent) is deadening. All it takes are two tone-deaf, brutish and entitled men to give an entire vast operation a black eye, to turn it into a laughingstock. Two men.
And also, hey, we don’t believe that jury. Stupid jury. Isiah is a good man. He belongs in basketball because 25 years ago he was good at playing it.
(The WNBA is not above reproach. They are currently dragging their feet as they attempt to not reach the highest heights of hypocrisy as they attend to the domestic violence charge copped to by the league’s next transcendent star in Brittney Griner.)
Thomas’ former teammate Bill Laimbeer coached two WNBA teams to great acclaim. In an ideal world, Thomas’ seeming star power would help the league. The old CBA thought that, though. So did the Raptors and Knicks. So did Florida International University, which struggled under Thomas prior to thriving in his absence despite several player defections.
We’re past the history lesson, though, and the Wikipedia-styled retellings. What we’re dealing with now is the ego of two men – one with room to hire, and his smiling buddy – and how it could affect an entire franchise and league. Phil Jackson should resign in protest. Had he not become rich and entitled himself, it probably would have already happened.
We’re starting to sort of become done with this sort of (to use the Knicks’ phrase) sordid stuff. Ten years ago most of us would have lined up to pay money for the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight without reflex. Now, most of us couldn’t live with ourselves in doing so even if Manny would have knocked Mayweather out in two rounds. Some of us are done with the NFL. Some of us are sick of bad people being given chance after chance because of sports.
It’d be nice to think that, someday, we’ll be free and clear of having these sorts of (convicted) people in our sporting lives. As long as the undeserved and entitled still wield power, however, it’ll never happen. There’s always going to be that one guy – and it’s almost always a guy.
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