First, I want you to think of an incredibly important position for your job. Someone who's essentially your right-hand man. Someone with power and control. Got it?
Now think of the absolute worst candidate possible. I'm not talking "a bad fit but highly qualified," I'm saying that his or her career history is an outright disaster zone. His or her resume needs a quarantine from the EPA. Not only has he or she failed at every turn in your chosen position, but his/her greatest failure actually occurred while working for the very company you are considering hiring him/her for.
That's pretty much the tree that Donnie Walsh is barking up today.
Walsh told Chris Broussard of ESPN Saturday that he'd consider Isiah Thomas for the general manager position of the Knicks if he elects to hire one. Thomas was the President of the Knicks from 2003 until 2008. During that time, he managed the following positive moves:
• Drafted David Lee
• Did not burn down Madison Square Garden.
Yeah, that's about it.
Thomas managed to acquire nearly every terrible contract in the league, from nearly every player considered to have significant off-court problems or be incompatible with others on-court. Who could forget these hits?
• Traded for Eddy Curry
• Traded for Steve Francis
• Traded for Stephon Marbury
• Signed Jerome James
• Drafted Renaldo Balkman. And, oh, yeah, a sexual harassment civil suit that cost the Knicks over $11 million and somehow managed to tarnish the Knicks more so than his basketball-related moves.
How bad was Isiah Thomas in a management role? A month ago, the Utah Jazz selected Gordon Hayward with the ninth pick in the draft. This constitutes the last pick Thomas traded away. Nearly two years after Thomas was replaced, the Knicks were still dealing with his direct effects. This is excluding the next three years of traded or swapped picks that Walsh was forced to suffer in order to ditch the remaining horrific contracts (and he still can't find a way to move Curry). It wasn't just a short-term series of poor decisions, it was an epic collection of outright disasters.
And yet, when the Knicks were courting LeBron James, the most powerful player in the NBA at this moment, Walsh sent Thomas to speak with James. Now he's considering giving him a gig once more. Even with Walsh running the show, having Thomas around is a bad PR move that can garner almost no positive net effect. Any positive contribution he may make will be attributed to Walsh, while any blunder he makes will be exaggerated tenfold.
But then, it's not like this move can be seen as out of nowhere. Walsh has been a solid and fairly brilliant executive in this league for decades. But his last deputy acting as general manager?
This is a bizarre pattern, like when The Beatles opened up that terrible retail clothes boutique. Knicks fans have to be wondering how much longer Thomas will haunt their Garden.