NEW YORK (AP) Mike D’Antoni sounds OK with it. Mike Krzyzewski wouldn’t do it.
Isiah Thomas’ return to the New York Knicks as a consultant while still coaching a college team has raised plenty of questions – starting with whether it’s even legal.
D’Antoni, who became the Knicks’ coach after Thomas was fired two years ago, said Tuesday his predecessor could provide an advantage for the organization and he supported bringing him back on as long as team president Donnie Walsh approved.
“I’m sure that Isiah has a lot to offer. Donnie will call on if he needs it and be in consult,” D’Antoni said.
Thomas had a similar role after he was fired as general manager and coach in 2008. However, he has since become coach of Florida International, which is where the conflict could arise.
Krzyzewski, the Hall of Fame coach of Duke and the U.S. national team, would decline a similar position because he believes college and NBA jobs should be separate.
“I would decline to do that just because I shouldn’t be perceived to have an advantage in whatever way over another college coach, so that’s why I wouldn’t to do it,” he said after the Americans practiced. “I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with it or whatever, I just think that it’s probably better to keep it separate.”
The NBA is reviewing the agreement to see if it violates league rules, which prevent team officials from having contact with players who aren’t yet eligible for the draft.
“Have we served as consultants to the pros? Yeah,” Krzyzewski said. “People call us before the draft, ‘What do think of this, what do you think of that?’ I think it’s better to have it like that.”
The Knicks have taken a beating since announcing Thomas’ return Friday by people who recall how badly his tenure at Madison Square Garden was. Thomas started as team president in December 2003, and the Knicks never won a playoff game under his watch despite always having one of the league’s highest payrolls.
Plus, a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Thomas and the organization by former team employee Anucha Browne Sanders also cost MSG $11.6 million.
But Thomas still has a good reputation among younger NBA players who remember his Hall of Fame playing career in Detroit. The Knicks think that can help them, and even called upon Thomas in their recruitment of LeBron James.
“Donnie is very smart to be able to tap into it when he needs it, and if it’s an advantage to the Knicks then we’ll use it,” D’Antoni said.
But D’Antoni, who was coaching Phoenix during Thomas’ tenure in New York, understands why many are so confused by the Knicks’ decision to bring Thomas back. There have been reports that Walsh was against the move, and speculation that Thomas will eventually get a bigger role in the organization – perhaps even his old one.
“The only thing is, it does get a life of its own and it’s not going to change what Donnie does, what he has done and how good he has done it,” D’Antoni said. “And again, if it can help us, which I think in certain areas it can, then we will use that and so there’s no negatives to it other than it created a story with (the media).”
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