Isiah Thomas is back.
The Knicks announced Friday that Thomas will return to the team as a consultant. Thomas, who was removed as coach and team president in April 2008, will "assist the team's senior management in various capacities, including player recruitment," the team said in a statement. Thomas will continue coaching college basketball at Florida International.
"Isiah Thomas brings unique experience as a Hall of Fame player, coach, executive and owner, and we believe having him as part of our organization will be extremely beneficial to the team's success," president Donnie Walsh and MSG chairman James Dolan said in a joint statement.
Thomas remained in contact with the organization after his departure and during his tenure at FIU. During the recent free-agency period, Thomas aided in the recruiting of Amar'e Stoudemire and tried to persuade LeBron James to sign with the Knicks. During Stoudemire's introductory news conference, Walsh thanked Thomas for helping bring the 6-10 forward to the team.
"Isiah was helpful to the team's senior management during our most recent recruitment efforts, including assisting with the acquisition of Amar'e Stoudemire," the statement said. "He will provide valuable insight and analysis of young prospects from around the world. Isiah will remain head coach of FIU, and that will continue to be his primary responsibility."
The hire could violate league rules that forbid college coaches from having jobs with NBA teams, who aren't allowed to have contact with players who aren't yet eligible for the draft.
"We are reviewing the agreement, in consultation with the Knicks, for compliance with league rules," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia said he has no qualms about Thomas coaching at his school and also working for the Knicks.
"We've talked to the NCAA about this; we've been talking to them for a couple of weeks. With his work ethic and passion for basketball, we know that he can do both," Garcia said. "And we're good with that. I guess my quote of the day has been: 'If he wants to be a consultant with the Knicks and coach FIU basketball, that's fine with us. If he wants to be a consultant to President Obama and coach FIU basketball, that's fine with us.' "
Walsh and Mike D'Antoni replaced Thomas as team president and coach, respectively, in April 2008. During Thomas' tenure as team president, which began in December 2003, the Knicks did not win a postseason game despite often having the league's highest payroll. He also was the coach the final two seasons, getting dismissed after a 23-59 season in 2007-08. The Knicks were 56-108 in Thomas' two seasons as coach.
Thomas, who was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history during the league's 50th anniversary season, led the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990.
"I'm excited to once again be a part of the New York Knicks organization," Thomas said. "I was honored to have been asked to help during the recent free-agent recruiting process, and believe that this new role takes full advantage of my skill set as an evaluator of basketball talent. While I will of course continue in my role as FIU's coach, I look forward to working with Donnie, Coach D'Antoni and all of the Knicks staff to help bring a championship back to New York."
In 2006, Thomas and Madison Square Garden were sued in a sexual harassment case filed by Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders. MSG settled the case for $11.6 million.
The Dolan family owns
controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision.
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