Not only has Frank Isola concluded that James Dolan’s recent decision to retain Isiah Thomas as the Knicks’ head coach and team president, “is showing all the signs of blowing up famously,” but the Daily News scribe reveals a moment so horrifying, I cannot help but have some sympathy for J.D.’s overpaid underachievers.
James Dolan marched into the Knicks’ locker room recently with a plan to fire up the troops. In his hand was a DVD that the Madison Square Garden chairman believed would resonate with the NBA’s most expensive roster.
If the players were expecting a Knute Rockne speech or old footage of Red Holzman’s philosophy on playing team basketball, they were sadly mistaken. The video, according to one Knick, was of a performance by Dolan’s blues band, JD & the Straight Shot.
Dolan regularly visits with the team either before or after games. Two months ago, he congratulated the players following a home loss to the Nets and told them that the “referees stole this one.”
He addressed the players before a game in Utah, informing them that Isiah Thomas was in no danger of losing his job. Showing the DVD before a game was another harmless example of Dolan feeling more comfortable around a group of men he has little in common with other than his signature on their paychecks.
The Knicks (30-39) have 13 games remaining, including meetings with Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago and Toronto and two dates with New Jersey. Their 90-68 loss to the Cavs on Friday was their third straight defeat. Stephon Marbury had another off night, while Thomas continues to lose patience and confidence in Steve Francis, who was benched for most of the second half.
Afterward, Thomas cited injuries for the Knicks’ recent slide, saying, “We just don’t have the bodies.”
It’s a tough theory to promote since the starting backcourt will earn approximately $30 million this season. Jared Jeffries signed a $30 million contract last summer, Eddy Curry is having his best season and Channing Frye is a former seventh overall draft pick.
Thomas has no other recourse, however, but to offer excuses. Dolan’s overbearing media policy prohibits his coaches from publicly criticizing the players. Even if Thomas wanted to use the media to motivate his team as Dolan’s coaching idol, Bill Parcells, does, he has to be careful. Such tactics cost Larry Brown his job.
Jeff Van Gundy was a master at such ploys but Dolan had no use for one of the league’s best coaches, who led the Knicks to two conference finals and one NBA Finals. And now Thomas is forced to walk the fine line between trying to win games, say all the right things and listen to JD & the Straight Shot.