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Dolan gives Isiah season to show progress

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Whatever "evident progress" is, New York Knicks
coach Isiah Thomas has the full season to show it.

That's good news for Thomas.

The bad news? His boss hasn't seen enough of it yet.

"If we end up the season where we are now, in terms of this
development, I think we would all be disappointed," Madison Square
Garden chairman James Dolan said Tuesday. "I don't mean in terms
of the record, just, I mean, in terms of the execution of the team,
the performance of the team."

Dolan spoke to the media for the first time since June, when he
gave Thomas one season as coach to show evident progress with the
players he assembled as team president or be out of both jobs.
Dolan reiterated that he wouldn't make any decisions until after
the season.

He refused to specify what Thomas must do to demonstrate such
progress, and he couldn't resist taking a few more shots at Larry
Brown, whom he fired after one dismal season.

"I'm sorry about last season and about what happened with our
coach," Dolan said. "I'm sorry how it negatively impacted the
team. I'm sorry we made a mistake hiring that coach."

The Knicks were 23-59 last season, so it wouldn't take much for
Thomas to have a better record. And even though the Knicks are only
8-16, a playoff spot isn't out of the question since they are only
2½ games out of first place in the woeful Atlantic Division.

But Dolan still won't even say if that's necessary for Thomas to
keep his job.

"I'm not going to give you today a number, a win-loss record,
into the playoffs, etc. on Isiah in determination of what is
progress," Dolan said. "I don't have to make that decision until
the end of the season. So as much as you'd like to be -- in some
ways I'd like to know what the decision is going to be -- I'm not
going to make it today because you guys want it. So we're all just
going to have to wait."

Dolan acknowledged that small crowds at Madison Square Garden
are a concern, but doesn't think that will factor into his
decision.

His concern is what happens on the court, and he said it's too
early to measure that. The Knicks are two games better than they
were through 24 games last season but have been dreadful at times,
such as when they fell behind by 30 points in a home loss to Boston
on Monday.

"I believe that Isiah will be successful. I believe that he is
going to take this team and that he is going to develop it
significantly over this season and I believe that we will be
sitting here at the end of the season, saying obviously we need to
keep Isiah. I believe that, but I'm not committed to that. What I'm
committed to is evaluating it at the end of the season."

Center Eddy Curry has been dominant lately during a stretch of
10 straight games with 20 or more points, and some young players
have shown improvement.

"I have to say that I consider our players who are in their
second year, I feel like they're really in their first year,"
Dolan said. "I don't feel that they developed much last year."

Thomas also may be helped by the fact that Dolan seems opposed
to starting over, saying that would be "part of the criteria."

The Knicks have not won a playoff game since Thomas arrived
three years ago despite building the NBA's largest payroll, and
Garden fans routinely chant for his firing. But Dolan expects
Thomas to be working for him after this season.

"I hope it's not a marginal call. I don't believe it will be,"
Dolan said. "I believe it will be a call that everybody ... like I
said, you all will be telling me that we should keep going. If that
happens, then I really know we should keep going."