It's been more than 20 years since Isiah Thomas led the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles. These days, his legal woes and front- office missteps are as much a part of his legacy as those years with the Bad Boys. Now it appears Zeke may have a chance to redeem himself, in the one place that still holds him in high regard: Detroit. A report from ESPN.com's Chris Broussard has Thomas on the short list for the Pistons' vacant head coaching gig.
Some speculate that Detroit GM Joe Dumars is merely giving his good friend and former backcourt mate a "courtesy call," while others point to their close relationship as a reason the Pistons might genuinely be interested. Thomas is said to be competing for the job with Kelvin Sampson, Mike Woodson and former teammate Bill Laimbeer.
In recent years, Thomas has found both success and failure as an NBA head coach and front office exec. With him at the helm, the Pacers made three straight playoff appearances from 2000 to 2003, but the Hall of Fame point guard did not do as well in New York. He failed miserably as president of the Knicks from 2003 to 2008; his winning percentage of .341 as a head coach from 2006 to 2008 was the fifth lowest in team history; and his tenure was marred by an embarrassing -- and costly -- sexual harassment lawsuit.
Two years after he was fired, Thomas was rehired by the Knicks as a consultant, but ultimately could not take the job, as the NBA deemed the position would conflict with his head coaching job at Florida International University. Many believe Thomas has nonetheless worked for the Knicks on the sly, acting as a sort of puppet master for owner James Dolan, with whom he has always been close.
The recent departure of Donnie Walsh as the Knicks' president leaves a vacancy in the Big Apple, as well, and Thomas has been mentioned as a candidate. How is it possible that a PR nightmare -- who has had mixed results at best -- could be a candidate for two high-profile NBA gigs? In his first tenure with the Knicks, he signed bad players to bad deals and cost the team a pretty penny with his inappropriate advances toward a front-office employee.
No matter how strong the feeling of nostalgia, the Pistons would regret bringing Thomas in to a team that was plagued by dissension and apathy last season. The joy of seeing a former hero return would be tempered by the sobering reality of Thomas' recent failings. As for the Knicks, the fans couldn't bear to see Thomas sink the franchise again, particularly when they seem to be finally turning the corner. Bringing back Thomas would be a selfish move for Dolan, and one that would not benefit the up-and-coming team.
While I'm all for second chances, and I believe some coaches just need to find the right fit, it seems to me Thomas has been given more than enough chances; now it's time for teams to look elsewhere.