Dolan: Isiah Thomas won't return

NEW YORK -- Isiah Thomas will not return to the New York Knicks in an official capacity, owner James Dolan said.

In an interview with the New York Post, Dolan said he and Thomas, who served as general manager of the Knicks from 2003 to 2008, remain friendly but that he would not want to rehire Thomas because it would be a "distraction" to the organization.

"I don't know that he'll ever be able to work in New York" again, Dolan said in his first interview about the Knicks in seven years. "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?" Dolan added. "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."

Thomas presided over the team during one of its least successful stretches, with the Knicks missing the playoffs in four of five seasons on Thomas' watch. He served as an unofficial advisor to Dolan following his dismissal. Dolan asked Thomas to help the Knicks recruit free agents, including LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire. Thomas also played a key role in the Knicks' acquisition of Carmelo Anthony in 2011.

The tumultuous period of Thomas' tenure included a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Anucha Browne Sanders. The former Knicks senior vice president of marketing and business operations successfully sued MSG, as a jury in October 2007 ordered the Knicks to pay her $11.6 million after finding she endured crude insults and unwanted advances from then-coach Thomas, who denied the jury's findings.

Dolan tried to rehire Thomas in an official capacity in 2010, but the NBA nixed the move because Thomas was the coach at Florida International at the time.

Dolan said Friday that he remains in contact with Thomas but doesn't often consult him often on basketball matters.

He also said he wouldn't want to subject Thomas to scrutiny from the fan base and media that may come if he returned to the Knicks.

"He would probably do it as my friend, but I couldn't do it to him or his family," Dolan said. "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."

He added that Thomas has transitioned into working in areas outside basketball. He serves as an analyst for NBA TV but also works with youth in Chicago to combat gang violence.

"He's not as basketball-centric," Dolan said.

Dolan also spoke about Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Both the Knicks and Nets are off to slow starts, but Dolan believes he'll be more patient with his team than Prokhorov will be with the Nets.

"I'll bet you I'm more patient than Mikhail is of his team," Dolan said. "Mostly, I think it does not pay to be impatient, because you destabilize your team."

Dolan's comments on Prokhorov were the latest in a back-and-forth between the Knicks and Nets that began when the Nets announced their move to Brooklyn.

In July 2010, the Nets unveiled a 22-story billboard across the street from Madison Square Garden that included a picture of Prokhorov and then-minority share owner Jay Z with the words "Blueprint for Greatness."

Prokhorov also referred to Dolan as "that little man" in a New York Magazine article. Dolan reportedly was livid after each incident.

To ease the tension between the billionaire owners, NBA commissioner David Stern brokered a meeting with Dolan and Prokhorov as the teams were working on plans to share the 2015 All-Star Game.

Dolan did not address the previous incidents with Prokhorov in his most recent interview.

"I don't get to see him much but he clearly wants to win, which is a good thing," Dolan said. "He's the only guy paying more taxes than we are, which is a club I wouldn't necessarily want to be part of with him. I think he wants to win. I know he wants to win. He wouldn't be putting the resources in that he is otherwise. But, I mean, he's still my competitor. As a person I kind of know him. I've had lunch with him, but other than that I don't really know him well."