Knicks' Walsh to let Thomas finish season, but will talk with coach, too

NEW YORK -- Isiah Thomas will finish the season as the Knicks' coach, but needs a good explanation for why things went so horribly wrong for any chance to last beyond that.

New president Donnie Walsh said Wednesday he plans to meet soon with Thomas, and he wants to know why a team he thought could be good instead will finish as perhaps the worst in franchise history.

Walsh insists he hasn't decided on Thomas' future with the team, but the Knicks' 23-56 record clearly works against the coach.

"You can say I have an open mind as far as any conversation I'm going to have," Walsh said. "I still don't think we've played well, there's a lot of things I want to talk about. So it's not totally open. It's not like I'm going in saying, 'Well, this has all been great, so what do you want to talk about?"

Walsh said he expects their conversation to happen before the regular season ends next week. But no matter what he decides, he expects Thomas to be on the bench for the remaining games.

"Yeah, I would say that we're going to go through the season because there's only four games left," Walsh said, "and I'm going to use this period to try to take a look at the whole situation so I'm in a position to make whatever decision is going to be made -- if there are any."

Walsh was hired last Wednesday to replace Thomas as team president, and put off any decision about Thomas' remaining job until after they could meet in person. The Knicks were on a road trip at the time and didn't return until the weekend.

Walsh had left town by then to clean out his desk in Indiana, where he recently announced he was leaving the Pacers after 24 years in their front office. Walsh didn't return to New York until Tuesday, and said he still hasn't even seen Thomas.

That will change soon. Walsh attended New York's 109-107 victory over the Bobcats, and the Knicks also are home for games Friday and Monday before closing the season at Indiana on April 16.

Walsh wants details about specific things that happened this season, such as the Thomas-Stephon Marbury feud that sent the season spiraling out of control after only five games. Marbury left the team in Phoenix after Thomas threatened to remove him from the starting lineup, and the Knicks lost their next six games.

Thomas also had disagreements on the bench during games with Quentin Richardson and Zach Randolph, and he'll need to decide how honest he wants to be with Walsh about whether he was at fault. He also yanked center Eddy Curry from the starting lineup, and Curry lost his confidence and took a major step back with his play this season.

"I would say that, again, this has been an extremely challenging year and it's been a unique year that's presented unique and different problems, and you know our record is not good," Thomas said. "It's not good. We've had a poor performance out on the floor. That's not a permanent situation. The situation we're in now is not permanent."

Speaking before Walsh, Thomas continued to act as if he is part of the future -- as he always does -- and again talked about winning championships in New York. He worked three years under Walsh in Indiana as the Pacers' coach and both say they have a good relationship, so perhaps he has reason to believe he has a chance to stick.

Thomas assembled this entire team that will miss the playoffs for the fourth straight year. While he stresses that the Knicks were "pretty far down" when he arrived as president in 2003 but are "positioned pretty properly" now, Walsh needs to know why that hasn't shown on the court.

"I think that's what we have to talk about, to be quite honest ... more or less to find out what's been going on," Walsh said. "He should have an insight into why this hasn't worked this year."

Whoever the coach is, Walsh would like him in place by the June draft. That's just one step in a rebuilding process that fans have made it clear to Walsh, a native New Yorker, won't be easy.

Asked what they are saying to him, Walsh replied: "Hey, good luck. You've got a hell of a job."