On This Date: Knicks fire Isiah Thomas

April 18th 2008: Knicks fire Isiah Thomas

The Knicks & Donnie Walsh officially end the Isiah Thomas era on this date. After helping the Knicks reach the playoffs in the 2003-04 season, the Knicks went on a downward spiral the previous 4 seasons, winning 33 games twice and 23 games twice. The Knicks were in salary cap hell with long-term contracts and below mediocre talent. The team also had plenty of off-court drama with 5 head coaches (including Isiah), infighting in the locker room, and a sexual harassment scandal that ultimately ruined Isiah & Stephon Marbury’s tenure with the organization.

The NBA forced Donnie Walsh onto the Knicks to help rebuild the team into a competent basketball organization. The team was simply an embarrassment in professional sports. A major step of rectification was to remove Isiah from the team. While Isiah was not around the organization, he still maintained a role as a consultant because he was due a large sum of money from his recent contract extension.

 

On This Date: Knicks surprisingly give Isiah Thomas a contract extension

March 12th 2007: James Dolan gives Isiah Thomas a contract extension

After leading the Knicks to a 29-34 record and barely staying afloat at the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, James Dolan surprisingly decided to give Isiah Thomas a multi-year contract extension. After the disastrous 2005-06 season that led to Larry Brown’s firing, Dolan gave Isiah Thomas an 1 year ultimatum to show “evident progress” otherwise he’d be fired. Somehow a 29-34 record was adequate enough.

In Knicksian fashion, the team won 4 of the remaining 19 games to fall well out of playoffs. Both Jamal Crawford & David Lee had their seasons end early due to injuries. The next season proved to be disastrous due to the verdict from the sexual harassment lawsuit and a very public feud with Stephon Marbury. The Knicks were deemed an “embarrassment” by David Stern. Stern coerced Dolan to hire Donnie Walsh and subsequently fired Isiah at the end of the season.

On This Date: Knicks fire Scott Layden and hire Isiah Thomas

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.