A New Chapter in the Book of IsiahI'd like to file a missing persons report. Remember all the "experts" who breathlessly informed us that Isiah Thomas is a bad coach and even worse as an executive? They've all disappeared--or at least become very quiet. Thomas' New York Knicks have steadily improved throughout the season and have actually worked their way up to the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Knicks owner James Dolan has decided to reward Thomas' efforts with a multi-year contract extension. The exact terms of the deal have not been publicly announced but Dolan explained why he made the move now as opposed to waiting until the end of the season. You may remember that he gave Thomas an ultimatum before this season to produce "significant progress"--or else. Dolan said that this goal has already been reached: "I feel that the team and Isiah have shown that significant and evident progress, that they are a better team. We're all excited about the opportunity to make the playoffs but I'm also excited what this team is going to look like next year. That I feel that way is that we've created a great foundation for building this franchise. That is signficant progress. Because we reached that goal now, it has to be recognized and not wait an additional 19 games."
Five weeks ago, I detailed how much the Knicks have improved and asked, "Is there any reason that Thomas should not be a candidate for both Executive of the Year and Coach of the Year?" Admittedly, this was before the Mavericks began making a serious run at 68-70 wins; I would not argue with anyone who says that Dallas' Avery Johnson should repeat as the NBA's Coach of the Year. No one has ever won the award in consecutive seasons, though, and the honor usually goes to the coach whose team has exceeded expectations to the greatest degree as opposed to the coach of the best team; maybe those criteria are faulty, but--whether one looks at these precedents or simply considers what Thomas and the Knicks have accomplished in the shadow of Dolan's ultimatum--it is clear that Thomas is a worthy Coach of the Year candidate.
posted by David Friedman @ 9:47 PM