While Knicks fans fret about the possibility of Isiah Thomas returning to New York, the Detroit Pistons are considering Thomas for their vacant head coaching position, according to league sources.
Thomas is not the leading candidate, sources say, but he is on Detroit's short list along with Mike Woodson, Kelvin Sampson and his former Pistons teammate Bill Laimbeer.
Thomas, currently the head coach at Florida International University, made headlines this past weekend after the Knicks announced on Friday that Donnie Walsh would not return as the club's president and general manager. Because of Thomas' close relationship with Knicks owner James Dolan, there was speculation that Thomas could regain control of the Knicks.
Sources close to the Knicks' situation insist that Thomas will not be re-hired as the team's president or general manager and Thomas told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian O'Connor on Friday that he has "no desire to return" to the Knicks as president or as Walsh's replacement.
Thomas served as the New York's president in a controversial reign from 2003-2008 that left him among the most hated sports figures in recent New York history.
That is not the case, however, in Detroit, where Thomas led the Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990. Widely regarded as the greatest player in franchise history, the Hall of Famer could return to a club that has suffered through three straight losing seasons.
While Thomas' performance in the Knicks' front office left much to be desired, he has enjoyed success as a coach. He led the Indiana Pacers to three consecutive playoff appearances from 2000-2003 and helped develop Jermaine O'Neal, Jalen Rose and Ron Artest into stars. It's that success with young players that has the Pistons intrigued, according to sources.
In 2002, Thomas led the Pacers to a 34-15 start and was the coach of the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game. However, the Pacers finished poorly and were eliminated in the first round for the third straight year, leading to Thomas' firing.
After joining the Knicks as team president, Thomas took over the club's coaching duties at the start of the 2006-2007 season. Over the next two years, his Knicks finished a disappointing 56-108.
Thomas, sources say, has been longing to return to the NBA. A return to Detroit would serve as a reunion with his close friend and former Hall of Fame backcourt mate, Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.