Isiah Thomas, the Basketball Hall of Famer and former New York Knicks executive, has been named president and part owner of the WNBA's New York Liberty. ESPN's Chris Broussard first reported the hiring.
Thomas, 54, played 13 seasons in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons from 1981 to 1994. He was later a coach for the Indiana Pacers (2000–2003) and Knicks (2006–2008), as well as Florida International University (2009–2012).
From December 2003 to April 2008, Thomas was the Knicks' president of basketball operations. His tenure was marked by high payrolls for the team and the trades of numerous draft picks. After losing in the first round of the 2004 NBA playoffs, the Knicks did not reach the postseason again until 2011.
Thomas told the New York Daily News that he was "excited" about his new role with the Liberty. Regarding the Knicks, Thomas said, "I'm not involved with the Knicks."
"I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the New York Liberty and help the franchise reclaim its position as one of the elite teams in the WNBA," Thomas said in a statement. "Following a conversation with Jim about his thoughts on the franchise, I expressed my interest and enthusiasm for taking responsibility for both the basketball and business operations, as well as for taking an ownership interest in the team. To me, basketball is basketball. These women are outstanding athletes who want to compete for a championship in New York. I look forward to this challenge – not just to win a title, but also to help broaden the team’s fanbase."
WNBA president Laurel Richie said in a statement that Thomas's ownership is subject to the approval of the league's Board of Governors.
In 2007, a jury in the Federal Distrct Court in Manhattan, N.Y., ruled that Thomas sexually harassed Anucha Browne Sanders, a former Knicks executive. The jury also ruled that Madison Square Garden improperly fired Sanders for complaining about Thomas' unwanted advances. The jury ruled that Sanders was entitled to $11.6 million in punitive damages from MSG and James L. Dolan, the chairman of Cablevision, which owns the arena and the Knicks.
In a statement issued Tuesday, the Knicks denied the allegations against Thomas.
The Madison Square Garden Company, which was spun off from Cablevision in 2010, owns the Knicks, Liberty, New York Rangers, MSG and Radio City Music Hall, among other teams and venues.
The Liberty were founded in 1997 and finished 15–19 last season, missing the postseason for the second straight season.
- Mike Fiammetta