Not that it really matters anymore, but it is an interesting thing to discuss.
To quickly review, Isiah had lost the team towards the end of the 2003 season - a team that I contend was the most talented Indiana Pacers NBA team ever. I thought it was obvious that Isiah had to go, Walsh was extremely quiet after the season in fact he didn't speak until the Friday before Memorial day weekend when he held a press conference - saying that Isiah was staying (that was when PFFL went off and lost it) What was Walsh thinking, what was going on.
I think almost 5 years later - I have decided that Walsh didn't fire Isiah for two reasons. First his grandaughter had just tragically died and by Memorial day Walsh knew that Bird was getting set to come aboard. Walsh was in a frame of mind that he wanted to step aside a little, let Bird take over the more day-to-day operations. So it would only make sense that Walsh would let Bird fire Isiah. I am 100% convinced that Walsh recommended to Bird that Isiah needed to go. But Walsh wanted to make sure Bird agreed, plus Walsh I don't believe was in the correct frame of mind to fire anyone.
But I am convinced that Walsh knew Isiah had to go.
This column out of NY brought all this back to mind
Knicks' players would welcome Isiah's return
BY ALAN HAHN
March 28, 2008
TORONTO - Isiah Thomas' return in any capacity next season may not be a popular scenario among Knicks fans, but one player said it would be welcome news in the locker room.
"Basically, there are some people who are upset with the way things went this year and, yeah, some mistakes were made," the player said. "But when it all comes down to it, we would have Isiah over someone new."
The player agreed to speak under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation and the Garden media policy that forbids players from talking with members of the media without a public-relations official present. The player, who admittedly has had issues with Thomas during his two seasons as coach, is concerned that Thomas' standing among the players isn't being presented accurately.
Amid the speculation about Donnie Walsh's expected arrival after the season to take over the franchise and the great unknown that is Thomas' future with the team, the players know only what they read and hear in media reports. "I think we know less than you do right now," David Lee said after Wednesday's win over the Heat.
Walsh remains employed by the Pacers, despite the announcement Monday that he will leave the franchise after the season. Reports by ESPN and Sports Illustrated suggested a deal is already in place with the Knicks, but the Pacers denied it. The Garden has maintained a consistent no-comment stance on the Walsh reports, but persons with knowledge of the situation have said the Knicks plan to hand the reins over to him after the season.
Newsday reported yesterday that Walsh's arrival doesn't quite mean Thomas is certain to be fired. It is believed that Garden chairman James Dolan would prefer to keep Thomas in some capacity, even as coach. Walsh would have to agree to it, and a person close to Walsh said it is not a given he would be against Isiah's return. Walsh hired Thomas to coach the Pacers from 2000-03 before Walsh's appointed successor, Larry Bird, fired him in favor of Rick Carlisle.
Though it was Bird's decision, Walsh was on board and told confidants at the time that he realized hiring Thomas was a mistake. But not everyone with the Pacers thought so. Former All-Star Jermaine O'Neal regularly praises his former coach and said Wednesday that he believed Walsh could help Thomas.
"Donnie understands him as a person and as a coach," O'Neal said, "and it will give him an opportunity to concentrate strictly on X's and O's, strictly on what happens on the basketball court and not the business part of it."
Perhaps that has emerged as this season's built-in excuse for Thomas. Last season the team failed to make the playoffs because of key injuries down the stretch. This season it was the distraction of the sexual harassment trial and then the public feud with former protégé Stephon Marbury that derailed the Knicks' season.
If Thomas does return, it is unlikely Marbury will be with the team. "No," the player said. "They can't be together again."
One of the major issues surrounding Thomas and Marbury was the game after Marbury went AWOL in Phoenix Nov. 12 after being told he was no longer starting. Marbury returned to play against the Clippers in Los Angeles two nights later. Yahoo Sports reported that Thomas played Marbury against the wishes of the team, which, according to the report, voted against Marbury being allowed to play after deserting.
"There wasn't a vote, honestly," the player told Newsday. "People had their own thoughts, but it wasn't a vote straight up ... Some guys talked; Isiah wasn't there."
There have been other issues, from verbal altercations during games with Quentin Richardson and Zach Randolph to veterans taking issue with what appears to be Thomas' intention to tank games. Thomas has not worked the team hard in practice and has allowed a lackadaisical attitude to take over the game preparation.
But apparently all of this might not be enough to convince Dolan - and some players - that a change is needed.