Sunday, November 14, 2010

Isiah's Obsession with the Knicks Almost Disturbing

Ladies, how long would you stay married to a spouse who continues to pine for his ex? How much would you put up with it, if said spouse was so bold as to go public about his desire to get back together with the one who jilted him?

What would you do if hubby said, when asked if he ever thinks about returning to his ex-wife, “Every single day of the week”?

Jack would be hitting the road, would he not?

Florida International University is the abused, neglected wife of schools. FIU must have the self-esteem of a bullied adolescent. And it’s taking its abuse lying down.

Isiah Thomas is the school’s basketball coach. For now. Until the New York Knicks call; after that, it’s sayonara.

Thomas says so—plainly, boldly.

There was a time when Isiah Thomas was beloved in Detroit. He was a runt, but he was our runt. He came to town as a 20-year-old kid drafted by the Pistons from Indiana University, off the streets of Chicago. He had a smile that lit up a room, but that smile hid the heart of an assassin.

Isiah bounded into Detroit and there didn’t seem to be any B.S. about him, except what was on the degree he would one day receive, having left college after his sophomore year.

Isiah spoke honestly and with an edge. He smiled a lot but you wanted him to be smiling with you, not at you. There was a big difference, as we would come to find out.

He arrived in the summer of 1981 and it didn’t take him long before his honesty made us squirm a little.

After looking at the Pistons’ roster—the team finished 21-61 the year before Isiah joined them—Thomas had a question.

“Who,” he wondered without any hint of sarcasm, “will I pass the ball to?”

He was serious. And he should have been. The Pistons were devoid of talent, as thin as onion skin in the depth department. Isiah’s creativity was at its apex when he led Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship.

Pistons GM Jack McCloskey drooled when he thought of what a player of Isiah Thomas’s personality and basketball magnitude could do for his squad.

But Isiah was right; the Pistons didn’t really have anyone worthy of his whirling dervish style or his pinpoint passes.

Once he got Isiah signed, McCloskey went to work assembling a roster more befitting his new point guard’s skill set.

Within a year, McCloskey acquired Bill Laimbeer and Vinnie Johnson to complement Isiah and fellow rookie Kelly Tripucka.

The Pistons jumped from 21 wins to 39 in Isiah’s first season.

You know the rest. Isiah—some around town called him Zeke—passed and scored his way into the NBA’s elite, slowly but surely. And he took the Pistons along with him. Thomas’s Pistons won two straight championships, and could have won a third.

Thomas was cold and calculating on the basketball floor. He didn’t want to beat you, he wanted to humiliate you. He had the Napoleonic Complex to the nth degree.

Isiah was as tough as an undercooked flank steak and as competitive as a hungry stray dog.

Isiah Thomas was, quite simply, the single greatest player to ever play for the Pistons. Still is, truth be told. He’s been retired for 17 years and no one has come close to him as an all-time Pistons great.

You could make a case that Isiah was the greatest small guard to play in the NBA. Ever.

That was then.

I don’t have much use for Isiah nowadays. I haven’t really for many years. His life and career post-playing have left too much to be desired. My opinion.

Now Isiah’s at it again, giving us way too much information about his obsession with the Knicks, which borders on disturbing.

Thomas was fired by the Knicks as team president in 2008 after nearly five years at the helm, on the heels of poor performance on the court and in the courts.

The Knicks team that Thomas constructed was a disaster, with its revolving door that ushered in both players and coaches—and he was one of the coaches. Isiah had a chance to bring the hallowed Knicks name back into relevance, something the NBA to this day would kill to make happen.

But he blew it. Isiah helped make the Knicks a cartoon, an embarrassment to the world’s greatest city and to the league.

Isiah was a bully in a china shop, running the Knicks. Yes, I said bully.

There’s a dark side to Isiah Thomas, you see. Ask anyone who hasn’t been the recipient of his famous smile. Ask anyone who’s dared to disagree with him on matters of relative importance.

One such bully victim was Anucha Browne Sanders, a bright female marketing executive with the Knicks before being fired, who sued the franchise and Thomas and who won, claiming sexual harassment that took place with the alleged complicity of Thomas.

The Knicks were losers in Madison Square Garden and in the courthouse. All that losing got Thomas fired.

Yet Isiah still pines for the Knicks.

Earlier this year, the Knicks tried to hire Thomas as a consultant, until the league stepped in, waggled its finger, and said “Nuh-uh—not while you’re under the employ of a university as its basketball coach.”

That should have put an end to Thomas’s fixation with the Knicks but it didn’t—not even close.

In a recent interview with ESPN New York, Thomas admits that he thinks about returning to the Knicks as team president “every single day of the week.”

There’s more.

Thomas says that if he was left in charge of the Knicks, LeBron James would have come to New York, and James would be bringing Dwyane Wade with him.

It was hardly the first time that Isiah has publicly admitted to still being smitten with the Knicks, a franchise with which he has fallen into irreversible lust.

All this, and FIU—his employer, by the way—doesn’t say a word.

It’s a classic case of the abused wife who everyone says should leave her husband, yet she doesn’t for whatever warped and pathetic reasons.

Thomas has been the coach at FIU for one season, a year in which his team went 7-25. He says he’s committed to bringing a winner to the Miami-based campus, but how can that be when he thinks about the Knicks “every single day of the week”?

If Florida International University had one ounce of self-respect for itself and for the kids on the basketball team, they’d fire Isiah yesterday. They should have canned him when Thomas tried to take that consultant’s job with the Knicks.

FIU should say, “You think about the Knicks every day, Isiah? Now you can have as much time as you want to think about them.”

FIU deserves better. Those kids playing basketball deserve better. They need a coach interested in them, not the New York Knicks.

Oh, Isiah!

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