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Fire Isiah Thomas. Now.

Tae Andrews | Friday, January 18, 2008

Since taking over as president of basketball operations for the New York Knicks in 2003 and then assuming the role of head coach in 2006, Thomas the Tank Engine has run the Knicks into the ground. The Knickerbockers have remained the little blue and orange engine that couldn’t, due in large part to Isiah Thomas’ lavish spending, terrible trade decisions and inept leadership.

He has spent more money than the gross domestic product of some third-world countries, assembled a crack squad of washed-up has-beens, never-weres and never-will-bes and made the Knicks into a running joke in the sports world. To quote Ozzy Ozbourne, the Knicks have been “going off the rails on a crazy train” for the past four years, and Thomas is the conductor. It’s time to cut this ride short.

These days Thomas finds himself serenaded by boos and jeering every time the Knicks take the court at Madison Square Garden, turning what should be a home game into a decidedly hostile environment. Chants of “Fire Isiah” from the Garden faithful have the hoops fanatics of New York calling for his head. The vox populi have spoken and they want Thomas out. It’s time to give the people what they want.

Of course, Madison Square Garden isn’t the Coliseum of ancient Rome, and thumbs-up or thumbs-down yay-or-nay vocalism from the fans shouldn’t determine decisions at the management level. However, in Isiah’s case there are plenty of reasons to doubt Thomas. The numbers speak for themselves.

6-14: the Knicks’ record this season.

33-49: the Knicks’ record last year, Isiah’s first as coach.

$11.5 million: the amount the Knicks and Thomas had to cough up in a sexual harassment settlement to one Anucha Browne Sanders, a former Knicks employee. A civil jury found Thomas guilty of sexual harassment.

$15 million: the price Thomas paid to acquire guard Steve Francis, a virtual clone of Stephon Marbury – an undersized me-first, shoot-first point guard who has contributed virtually nothing to the team.

3-12-2007: the date Knicks owner James Dolan extended Thomas’ contract by multiple years, citing “significant and evident progress” as the motive for the extension.

4-14: Thomas’ record to close out the season after Dolan extended his deal.

101-61: the score of the Knicks’ Oct. 17 loss to the Boston Celtics, in which the C’s powerwashed the floor clean of any semblance of the Knicks or professional basketball with an absolute drubbing.

In the offseason, the Celtics made bold moves to acquire All-Stars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Perhaps Thomas should have taken notes. Unlike his many moves which have blown up in his face, the Celtics’ two new stars, combined with incumbent superstar Paul Pierce, have created a new-look power triad which has set fire to the league, leading the C’s to an 18-2 start.

Using his carte blanche powers as executive and then coach, Thomas has put together a squad of overpaid underachievers who don’t play team ball, whine, moan and create a media circus even in a city nicknamed Zoo York. They’ve made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Thomas’ trade for Stephon Marbury, his prized point guard, has worked out horribly for all involved. Marbury has failed to provide any semblance of leadership, his numbers are down and even worse, he and his coach have taken their feuding public, as highlighted by a slew of recent headlines advertising their malcontent to the sports world.

Then, of course, you have The Brawl with the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 16 of last year, one of the most vicious on-court altercations in recent memory. Even here, Thomas may have played a (mis)guiding role: the fight erupted after he allegedly told one of his players to intentionally commit a hard foul.

The Knicks have had a reputation (and some might even say a tradition) for thuggery dating back to the 1990s and teams featuring Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley. However, those Pat Riley-coached teams did something Thomas’ teams don’t: they won basketball games.

Even worse, Thomas may now be blaming the fans for causing the team to lose. According to a New York Daily News story, during yet another recent loss, Thomas was overheard saying the Knicks’ fans were “a bad sixth man.” Season ticket holders also allegedly overheard Thomas say “it’s your fault” to the fans for the mounting losses. They boo because they want to cheer, Isiah.

It’s time for Isiah Thomas to stop making excuses and start packing his bags. It’s time to give the fans what they want, since it’s been abundantly clear that the product on the court can’t. Thomas has taken this once-proud franchise and run it into the ground, ensuring that the Knicks will remain terrible for the remainder of this decade and possibly well into the next. It’s time for Isiah Thomas to go.

Contact Tae Andrews at [email protected] The views expressed in Scene and Heard are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.