MSG’s Isiah Thomas Hire Irks Phil Jackson

James Dolan’s decision to bring Isiah Thomas back into the fold as team president and a minority owner of the New York Liberty, a WNBA franchise, hasn’t sat well with Knicks president Phil Jackson, Frank Isola of The New York Daily News writes. Jackson, according to a team source, has expressed concern over Thomas’ presence at Madison Square Garden, Isola notes.

This latest event further fuels speculation that the Zen Master won’t finish out his five year contract, and Thomas could eventually replace Jackson as team president, the Daily News scribe adds. “He’s not happy about it but what can he do about it,” one MSG official told Isola. “This is just the start of it.”

The WNBA Board of Governors still needs to approve Thomas as an owner, and a person familiar with the process believes he will be rejected, Isola relays. Even if Thomas is voted down by the WNBA, he would likely still remain on as the Liberty’s team president, which has already caused a backlash from WNBA coaches, the team’s fans, as well as multiple women’s advocate groups.

The crux of the issue with the hiring of Thomas is his high-profile sexual harassment case back in 2007. “This is a decision, at least to me, comes out of left field,” said Connecticut Sun coach Anne Donovan, a former Liberty assistant. “Bring him back to MSG? OK. But how do you pin [Thomas] to the women’s pro team?

For his part, Thomas has said that he will not have a role with the Knicks, but league executives are convinced that Thomas accepted the job with the Liberty as an entry level position to eventually return to the Knicks, Isola relays. With Jackson expressly signing on with the assurance that he would be free to run the team without interference from Dolan, the potential presence of Thomas in the decision making process for the team would certainly be a troubling development, though that is merely my speculation.

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