After coaching the Knicks through a record losing streak, getting spanked with a sexual harassment suit, being fired and, finally, overdosing on sleeping pills, Isiah Thomas has suffered a stunning fall from grace. Can he ever recover?
Americans love second chances. Heck, we love third, fourth and fifth chances. Screw up all you want. If you look genuinely sorry talking to Barbara Walters, anything will be forgiven. All that's required is an "I'm sorry," a tale of suffering and a hangdog look. In a few months Isiah will show up on 20/20, talking about how much he and his family have been through and how doggone hard that New York media was on him. He'll say the overdose was an accident, and no one will believe him, but it won't matter. He will have turned the page. He'll go back to a quiet career hawking his own brand of popcorn and providing sports analysis on a second-tier cable network and in 10 years, everyone will go back to remembering him as the brilliant point guard he once was and not the awful general manager he became.
Not a chance. Isiah's record may be the worst ever, for any executive in any sport. His long list of lowlights includes averaging more than 50 losses a season since he became president of the Knicks in '03—that statistic alone should end this debate. He turned over the roster like he was playing fantasy sports. He traded two lottery picks to the hated Chicago Bulls and signed unremarkable Development League talent at all-star salaries. Isiah put the Knicks' budget in a bigger hole than the U.S. economy before the bailout. Finally, most people are hired because of character and integrity. But this is where Isiah fails most miserably. Sexual harassment, racism allegations and, of all things, freezing out Michael Jordan back in the '85 All-Star Game. Michael?! Isiah lacks judgment. That's what counts, whether you're running the Knicks or a fifth-grade PE team.