Isiah remains on task despite openness of fan disdain

NEW YORK -- Plenty of people are unhappy at Madison Square Garden these days, but know this: Isiah Thomas said he will coach the Knicks to the bitter end.


Never a dull moment for a franchise, at least this season, unlike any other.

Though the fans cheered the Knicks during their comeback Monday against the Mavericks, Thomas and center Eddy Curry were the targets of boos most of the night. Mara Altschuler, a fan sitting near the Knicks' bench, said Thomas was talking to some fans during the game, blaming them for being a poor "sixth man" for the team.

Thomas wouldn't directly answer if he had interacted with any fans. He made it clear, however, that the chorus of Garden booing will not detract from his attempt to turning around the fortunes of his 6-14, last-place team.

"The grit that you need and the determination you need to win and build a championship team, you've got to have some tough skin," Thomas said after New York's 99-89 loss to Dallas. "Your skin has to get thicker every day, not thinner.

I fight 'til I die. It's not about giving up or quitting. To me, it's win or die. I literally mean death, I don't mean 'walk away.' I mean death. That's how I have coached. We've got a job to do here and we're going to get it done. I'm confident we have the right players and confident we have the right people, and we'll dig our way out of this."

Thomas said Knicks fans "are great, they support us and they show up and we're glad they're here." But Zach Randolph said he's bothered by the openness of fans' animosity.

"It's real hard. I ain't never been in a situation like that and I don't understand," Randolph said. "I guess they say it's New York fans, but you know it's real tough. Honestly. Especially for me, because I've never experienced every time a player walks off the court you're booing.

"Everywhere else, in Portland, fans were a big part of our team. Fans are a big part of every team everywhere you go. We need the fans to be supportive with us, even when we're down."

As usual with the Knicks, basketball was only part of the story Monday. Earlier in the day, Madison Square Garden and Thomas reached an $11.5 million settlement in the sexual harassment case brought by former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders.

Thomas opened his pregame news conference with a statement reaffirming his innocence, but supporting MSG's desire to settle. He wouldn't take any questions about the matter.

On the Knicks' on-court struggles, Thomas said, "This is a tough challenge here and we're not shrinking from the challenge by no means."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.