Isiah Thomas : biography
After retiring, Thomas became part owner and Executive Vice President for the expansion Toronto Raptors in 1994. In 1998, he left the organization after a dispute with new management over the franchise’s direction and his future responsibilities. During his four-year tenure with the team, the Raptors drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and high schooler Tracy McGrady.
After leaving the Raptors, Thomas became a television commentator (first as the lead game analyst with play-by-play man Bob Costas and then as part of the studio team) for the NBA on NBC. Thomas also worked a three-man booth with Costas and Doug Collins.
Thomas became the owner of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) from 1998 to 2000. Thomas purchased the CBA for $10 million, and in 2001 the league was forced into bankruptcy and folded, shortly after NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to create his own development league, the NBDL, to replace the CBA. Many CBA managers blamed Thomas for the league’s failure, citing mismanagement and out-of-control spending on his part. At the time of the league’s collapse the managing of the CBA was in a blind trust, due to Thomas’ position as head coach of the Indiana Pacers.
From 2000 to 2003, Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers, succeeding Larry Bird, who previously coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference title. Thomas attempted to bring up young talents such as Jermaine O’Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington, and Jeff Foster. However, under Thomas the Pacers were not able to stay at the elite level as they went through the transition from a veteran-dominated, playoff-experienced team to a younger, less experienced team. In Thomas’s first two seasons with the Pacers, the team was eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets, both of whom eventually made the NBA Finals.
In his last year with the Pacers, Thomas guided the Pacers to a 48–34 record in the regular season and coached the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. As the third seed, the Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the sixth-seeded Boston Celtics. With blossoming talents such as Jermaine O’Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley, along with the veteran leadership of Reggie Miller, the perception existed that the Pacers’ unfulfilled potential stemmed from Thomas’ inexperience as a coach. In the offseason, Larry Bird returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations, and his first act was to replace Thomas with Rick Carlisle.
Hall of Fame
In 2000, Thomas was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
New York Knicks
On December 22, 2003, the New York Knicks hired Thomas as President of Basketball Operations. Thomas was ultimately unsuccessful with the Knicks roster and fanbase. At the end of the 2005–06 season, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the league and the second-worst record. He traded away several future draft picks to Chicago in a deal for Eddy Curry including what turned out to be two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts.
On June 22, 2006, the Knicks fired coach Larry Brown, and owner James Dolan replaced him with Thomas under the condition that he show "evident progress" or be fired.
During the following season the Knicks became embroiled in a brawl with the Denver Nuggets, which Thomas allegedly instigated by ordering his players to commit a hard foul in the paint., ESPN.com
, 2006-12-20. Accessed 2007-10-03. "Though Thomas acknowledged telling Anthony not to go into the paint, he said Monday he meant it not as a threat but as a lecture on sportsmanship." However, he was not fined or suspended. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he only relied on "definitive information" when handing out punishments., Espn.com, 2006-12-20. Accessed 2007-10-03 Later in the season, nine months after James Dolan demanded "evident progress", the Knicks re-signed Thomas to an undisclosed "multi-year" contract., Espn.com, 2007-03-07. Accessed 2007-10-03. After Thomas was granted the extension, the Knicks abruptly fell from playoff contention with a dismal finish to the season.