Standing in front of a Liberty backdrop in the players' lounge, new team president Isiah Thomas flashed his trademark smile and laughed heartily when he was asked about the perception that he will have influence on the Knicks' decisions.
Thomas said he hasn't tried to speak to Knicks president Phil Jackson and danced around a question about whether he would.
"Because of that perception, I haven't [tried]," Thomas said on Thursday at Liberty media day at the MSG Training Center.
"All of us in this building, we all share the same building -- Rangers, Knicks, Liberty. We all root for each other. We all want each other to do well. We all want each other to win."
During his 25-minute news conference, Thomas, a former Knicks president and coach, spoke about his reason for taking over the Liberty's business and basketball operations and implored the large media crowd to continue to cover the team and give the WNBA the same coverage the NBA gets.
But Thomas didn't rule out a return to the NBA at some point.
"You never know where life takes you," he said. "I don't think there's anyone in this room who can say, 'Three years from now I'll be here.' I live in the present. I stay focused on my present. This is where I am today. I'm going to do the best job that I possibly can do here. You never know where you're going to end up."
The speculation has been that if Jackson doesn't fix the Knicks, Thomas, whose ownership stake in the Liberty is being reviewed by the WNBA, could return to the team in some executive capacity. Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer, Thomas' former Detroit Pistons teammate, said he doesn't see that happening.
"He is Liberty," Laimbeer said. "He's all about Liberty. He's into this thing. This is what he is right now."
Thomas' return to New York has brought attention to the Liberty. Much of it has been negative, stemming from Thomas and Madison Square Garden being accused in a 2006 sexual harassment case filed by former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders.
In 2007, the parties agreed to an $11.5-million settlement. Thomas maintained his innocence and was never found personally liable. But Thomas and the organization expected the backlash in his new role running a women's team.
"We knew this would cause some concern," Thomas said.
So before the team's first practice, Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan and Thomas met with Liberty players about the case and answered any questions they had.
As a show of solidarity, Laimbeer and the entire team attended the news conference. During it, Thomas described himself as "an activist" for "race, class and equality," said former WNBA guard and Olympian Teresa Edwards is his all-time favorite player and that he doesn't view basketball "through a gender lens."
The players applauded Thomas after his closing remarks. They said they're focused on basketball and trust that management made the right decision.
"I've had conversations with him," Essence Carson said. "I've had interactions with him. They've been nothing but professional."
Tina Charles called Thomas a "winner," said you want to have someone like that "around you" and that the sexual harassment case won't be "in the back of our mind."
Thomas said his relationship with the players has been "good" and they'll "continue to work at it." He said he would like to speak to the Seattle Storm owners and Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan -- a former Liberty coach -- who have been critical of Thomas' hiring.
"I hope I get to address all of them individually as I continue to walk this path," he said. "I'm pretty confident and I feel pretty good about the person that I put forth and who I am in terms of my honesty and my peace within."
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Liberty, Knicks, Madison
Square Garden and
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