December 22, 2003: Knicks fire Scott Layden and hire Isiah Thomas
The Scott Layden era finally came to an end on this date in Knicks history. In Layden’s 4.5 years with the organization, the Knicks went 175-181, but had a decreasing record each season and missed the playoffs in the previous two seasons to his firing.
Layden’s most notorious transactions include trading away Patrick Ewing, signing Allan Houston to a $100 million contract, acquiring Antonio McDyess, and trading Latrell Sprewell.
The motif of his transaction history was the acquisition of players at or beyond their prime, players that lack athleticism, and players that are often significantly overpaid. The rosters he built lacked the athleticism, youthful exuberance, and above the rim play to compete in the modern NBA of the early 2000s.
Despite the highest payroll in the league, the team lacked excitement and it reflected appropriately when the Knicks’ 433 home sellout streak snapped during the 2002-03 season.
The Knicks decided to hire Isiah Thomas after a recommendation from close friend Magic Johnson.1 Dolan originally offered the position to Magic, but he declined and instead recommended Isiah for the position.
Isiah was originally a minority owner and president of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors. Under his tenure, the team drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and Tracy McGrady. Isiah resigned in 1997 due to conflicts with the majority owners of the team. Isiah went to coach the Indiana Pacers for 3 seasons. The Pacers fired him, at the behest of new president Larry Bird, after multiple first round exits.
Isiah spent the first few seasons in New York untangling many of Scott Layden’s transactions. However, he quickly got mired in his own set of problems that slowly destroyed his tenure with the organization.