Knicks Boss Says Thomas Has Full Season

The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; 4:43 PM

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Whatever "evident progress" is, Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has the full season to show it. That's good news for Thomas. The bad news? His boss hasn't seen enough of it yet.

"If we end up the season where we are now, in terms of this development, I think we would all be disappointed," Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan said Tuesday. "I don't mean in terms of the record, just, I mean, in terms of the execution of the team, the performance of the team."

Dolan spoke to the media for the first time since June, when he gave Thomas one season as coach to show evident progress with the players he assembled as team president or be out of both jobs. Dolan reiterated that he wouldn't make any decisions until after the season.

He refused to specify what Thomas must do to demonstrate such progress, and he couldn't resist taking a few more shots at Larry Brown, whom he fired after one dismal season.

"I'm sorry about last season and about what happened with our coach," Dolan said. "I'm sorry how it negatively impacted the team. I'm sorry we made a mistake hiring that coach."

The Knicks were 23-59 last season, so it wouldn't take much for Thomas to have a better record. And even though the Knicks are only 8-16, a playoff spot isn't out of the question since they are only 2 1/2 games out of first place in the woeful Atlantic Division.

But Dolan still won't even say if that's necessary for Thomas to keep his job.

"I'm not going to give you today a number, a win-loss record, into the playoffs, etc. on Isiah in determination of what is progress," Dolan said. "I don't have to make that decision until the end of the season. So as much as you'd like to be _ in some ways I'd like to know what the decision is going to be _ I'm not going to make it today because you guys want it. So we're all just going to have to wait."

Dolan acknowledged that small crowds at Madison Square Garden are a concern, but doesn't think that will factor into his decision.

His concern is what happens on the court, and he said it's too early to measure that. The Knicks are two games better than they were through 24 games last season but have been dreadful at times, such as when they fell behind by 30 points in a home loss to Boston on Monday.

"I believe that Isiah will be successful. I believe that he is going to take this team and that he is going to develop it significantly over this season and I believe that we will be sitting here at the end of the season, saying obviously we need to keep Isiah. I believe that, but I'm not committed to that. What I'm committed to is evaluating it at the end of the season."

Center Eddy Curry has been dominant lately during a stretch of 10 straight games with 20 or more points, and some young players have shown improvement.

"I have to say that I consider our players who are in their second year, I feel like they're really in their first year," Dolan said. "I don't feel that they developed much last year."

Thomas also may be helped by the fact that Dolan seems opposed to starting over, saying that would be "part of the criteria."

The Knicks have not won a playoff game since Thomas arrived three years ago despite building the NBA's largest payroll, and Garden fans routinely chant for his firing. But Dolan expects Thomas to be working for him after this season.

"I hope it's not a marginal call. I don't believe it will be," Dolan said. "I believe it will be a call that everybody ... like I said, you all will be telling me that we should keep going. If that happens, then I really know we should keep going."

© 2006 The Associated Press