Isiah Thomas and New York Knicks owner James Dolan have remained close since Thomas was fired as Knicks president and coach in 2008.
In 2010, Dolan tried to hire Thomas as a consultant, but the hire was nixed by the NBA due to a conflict of interest.
At the time, Dolan had this to say about his relationship with Thomas:
"Although I'm disappointed that Isiah will not be working with the Knicks as a consultant, I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent. He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team."
Dolan found a way to bring Thomas back to the Garden on Tuesday when he hired him to serve as president and part owner of the WNBA's New York Liberty.
Said Dolan: "He's an excellent judge of talent, and I'm confident that he will put all of his energy and experience into making the Liberty a perennially competitive and successful team."
The news left many Knicks fans wondering if Thomas will eventually have a role with their team. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to conjure up circumstances of how that may happen.
When asked by ESPN.com on Wednesday afternoon if he would have any influence with the Knicks in his new role with the Liberty, Thomas stated, flatly, “No.”
Thomas added that he would be completely separated from the Knicks’ operations.
Thomas had been advising Dolan for several months on the Liberty but said he was not advising Dolan on the Knicks during that time period.
“Just the Liberty,” Thomas said.
When asked what he would tell Knicks fans who think that he someday be back with the team, Thomas said, “I’m excited to be working in the WNBA and I'm excited to be working for the New York Liberty.”
Will he be working for the Knicks in the future? That’s impossible to know right now. But it seems like Thomas will always be able to get an audience with Dolan.
Regarding the possibility of Isiah returning to the Knicks, it’s worth noting that in 2013, GM Steve Mills flatly denied that it was even a possibility.
“Isiah will not be coming back to the Knicks," Mills said in an interview on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "I've known Isiah for a long time. I think he has a lot of good things going on in his life.”
At the time, Thomas worked as an analyst for NBA TV and, through his foundation, Mary’s Court, worked with communities in Chicago to stem anti-gang violence.
He also continued to stay in touch with Dolan. The Knicks' owner admitted as much during a 2013 interview with the New York Post.
“He’s a friend,” Dolan told the newspaper. “… For Isiah, I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to work in New York. I just don’t know that he’ll ever get a fair shake, going forward in New York.
"Do I think he deserves another shot? Yeah. It just can’t be here. And I think he’s talented. I think he’s particularly talented at finding basketball talent. But I think he’s probably dismayed at this point. But I don’t see him coming back to New York. I couldn’t do that to him, and I couldn’t do that to the organization. He would probably do it as my friend but I couldn’t do it to him or his family. And you know what the press would do here. We’re interested in getting better and that situation would be such a distraction that it would actually hinder our ability to get better.”
More on Isiah: ESPN.com's Johnnette Howard writes that the women of the New York Liberty deserve better than to have Thomas running the team. espnW's Jane McManus wonders whether WNBA owners will approve Thomas as a part owner of the Liberty due to Thomas' involvement in a sexual harassment case against Madison Square Garden and the Knicks.
Question: Do you think Isiah will eventually have a role with the Knicks? What do you think about James Dolan's decision to hire Thomas as president of the Liberty?