Knicks president Donnie Walsh is livid that Isiah Thomas is back in the organization and feels his standing with the franchise could be compromised by owner James Dolan's decision to rehire Thomas, The Post has learned.
According to a Knicks source, Walsh told Thomas in a face-to-face meeting two weeks ago he did not want him working for the organization. Dolan and Thomas had agreed that Thomas could fill the team's general manager vacancy if Walsh was OK with it.
When Walsh told Thomas he objected, Thomas went back to Dolan, who still has a love affair with the Hall of Famer and seemingly is on a mission to rehab Thomas' image.
AGAINST HIS WILL: Donnie Walsh did not want Isiah Thomas (above during less contentious days as Pacers co-workers) re-hired by the Knicks, The Post has learned, but Thomas and owner James Dolan went behind his back to concoct a consultant role, which was decried on yesterday's Post back page.
Without Walsh's knowledge, Dolan and Thomas hatched a scheme in which Thomas could become a part-time consultant while remaining the coach at Florida International. (The NBA is reviewing whether the arrangement violates NBA rules on scouting procedures.)
Walsh, who had thought the Isiah issue was dead, was not debriefed until after the hiring was agreed upon, and he reluctantly put his name on a joint statement with Dolan. It was only recently that Walsh found out Thomas had been in Dolan's ear for months, offering free advice.
Some of Dolan's top advisors, including Garden president Hank Ratner, tried to talk Dolan out of naming Thomas as a consultant because of the public-relations backlash.
"Donnie doesn't want him there, nobody wants him there but Dolan," the team source said. "Isiah seems to have Jim wrapped around his finger."
Walsh was supposed to have full control of basketball operations when he was hired in 2008, but this incident shows that is not entirely true. Walsh also has tried to hire former Pacers Mel Daniels and Chris Mullin for front-office roles, but has been denied.
The Post reported 2½ weeks ago that Dolan met with Thomas at the Garden's offices at 2 Penn Plaza for hours. Walsh, at the time, said he was unaware of the meeting. In a Post interview Friday, Walsh admitted he was not involved in negotiations about Thomas' new consulting position.
Friday's announcement, predictably, has Knicks fans seething, putting a damper on what had been a decent summer, considering LeBron James' snub. The Knicks added five-time All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton and Anthony Randolph with a chance of tacking on Carmelo Anthony in 2011.
Walsh is in Indiana with his 12 grandchildren and did not return phone calls yesterday.
Walsh said Friday he is not hiring a GM, but Thomas' ultimate goal is to grab that position on the way to taking charge of basketball operations once again. Walsh has one guaranteed year left on his contract, but by making this move Dolan has usurped Walsh's authority.
If the NBA voids the Thomas contract, Dolan would have no choice but abide by Walsh's wishes or fire Walsh, who has had health issues this summer, injuring his hip and undergoing neck surgery that put him in a wheelchair.
Last month, The Post's Peter Vecsey reported Walsh possibly would retire this summer. Walsh repeatedly has denied he has any intention of retiring. Thomas has four years left on his FIU contract, but he is not expected to stay that long. Thomas perhaps realizes the Miami school will be even more overshadowed in the coming years with the advent of the Heat's Dream Team. Thomas was already lobbying for a GM job in comments made Friday to ESPN.com.
As The Post reported yesterday, Thomas boasted to a confidant two summers ago he would one day run the Knicks again and just needed time to repair his image.
During the press conference to introduce Stoudemire, Walsh thanked Thomas for his help in the recruiting process. But some in the organization believe Thomas had absolutely no influence on Stoudemire's decision. The Knicks' spin is Thomas can help them in the 2011 and 2012 free agency to recruit Anthony and Chris Paul, the star Hornets point guard who considers Thomas one of his idols.