New York Knicks president Phil Jackson is unhappy team owner James Dolan hired former Knicks coach and president of basketball operations Isiah Thomas to be the president of the WNBA's New York Liberty, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports.
Thomas was hired as president of the Liberty earlier this month and given a minority ownership stake in the team. The move is pending WNBA approval.
"[Jackson]’s not happy about it but what can he do about it," an unnamed Madison Square Garden official told Isola. "This is just the start of it."
Thomas's hiring has been a controversial subject. In 2007, a jury ruled that Thomas sexually harassed former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders and that Sanders was improperly fired for complaining about Thomas's behavior. The Madison Square Garden Company, the Knicks' and Liberty's parent company, released a statement after the hiring defending Thomas. Thomas also went on ESPN's Mike and Mike morning radio show to defend himself.
''Rehiring Thomas would be indicative of Dolan's lack of respect for women and his insensitivity to the seriousness of sex discrimination in employment—something women face all too often,'' Donna Lopiano, the former women's athletic director at Texas who specializes in Title IX and gender equity issues, told the Associated Press.
Thomas was the Knicks' president of basketball operations from 2003–08 and the head coach from 2006–08. The Knicks never finished above .500 in Thomas's tenure and won more than 33 games only once. Jackson was named Knicks president in March 2014.
Isola also reports that league executives "are convinced" Thomas accepted the Liberty job with the eventual goal of returning to the Knicks.
- Dan Gartland