Irate fans chant 'Fire Isiah! He's got to go! Goodbye' outside MSG

NEW YORK -- They came. They taunted. But they didn't get the

A smattering of disillusioned New York Knicks fans raised signs
in dissent Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, calling on
management to fire coach Isiah Thomas as they watched the
beleaguered home team battle the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I'm sick of watching this garbage every night," said Mike
Emen, 21, of Livingston, N.J., who infiltrated a section close to
the Knicks with his brother, Jared Emen, 19. The two were holding
sheets of orange paper that read "Fire Isiah" on one side and
"more suffering guaranteed" on the other.

While the Emen brothers and other season-ticket holders fumed,
the night was generally tame as Thomas was booed loudly during
introductions but the Knicks played hard and routed the Cavaliers --
perhaps, for the moment, bottling the fans' palpable discontent
with the coach.

MSG officials were apparently being cautious Wednesday night,
too. Toward the end of Monday's 119-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers,
a disgruntled fan raised a "Fire Isiah" sign and was ordered to
leave his seat by a security guard.

After the images were captured by news photographers and
published in Tuesday's papers, the fan, Jason Silverstein, came
forward to identify himself.

"The guy is killing our team," the 23-year-old Manhattan real
estate agent said. "How many 25-point beatings can we take?"

MSG clearly didn't want a repeat incident. One woman received
two warnings about her "Fire Isiah" sign but wasn't forced to
leave. She was sitting close to the Knicks' bench, not far from
where Silverstein sat.

Earlier in the day outside Madison Square Garden, Knicks
loyalists made themselves heard. They held aloft a giant pink slip
and called on Garden management to fire Thomas.

Chanting "Fire Isiah! He's got to go! Goodbye!" two dozen
irate fans signed the 8-by-4-foot pink placard urging Garden chief
executive James Dolan to dump the coach.

Among the protesters was noted civil rights lawyer and longtime
Knicks fan Norman Siegel, who criticized management for removing
the fan Monday.

"The Knicks are trampling on what New York is all about. We're
outspoken, and we're zany at times," Siegel said. "But principles
and values of free speech should be adopted. The Garden should
rethink its policy."

Thomas, whose team is 8-17, has been hounded by bad publicity
and calls from fans to quit since October, when fired team
executive Anucha Browne Sanders won a sexual harassment lawsuit
against him and the Garden. Just before the case was to return to
court to decide compensatory damages, the lawsuit was settled for
$11.5 million.

Before Wednesday's game, Thomas told reporters: "My job is to
make sure that I keep our team focused, keep a steady hand and ride
us through this storm. ... Some people like you and some people
don't. Some people support you, some people don't. But that won't
stop or deter me from doing what I came here to do."