Look. I’m not happy Isiah is back either. It is impossible to imagine that anything he could possibly offer as a scout/consultant is not completely undermined by the ugliness of his tenure at the Garden and the manner of his departure. Nevertheless, you would do well to ignore the screeching hysteria coming from tabloid writers and radioheads trying desperately to fill the duller-than-usual August sports media deadzone. I see little basis for David Stern to void the contract between the Knicks and Isiah Thomas. He will likely do little more than shake his head in mock pity.
Update: I’m in Beantown for work, and what do I see on the TV at the bar? Reports now indicate that after “consulting” with the league office Thomas has declined the position citing conflict of interest with his coaching duties. Rarely have I been so pleased to be so completely wrong.
Isola quotes an anonymous Eastern Conference GM who provides what seems to be the emergent conventional wisdom:
“If the league lets this go through, it’s opening Pandora’s Box,” said one Eastern Conference GM. “If they allow it, then why wouldn’t teams go out and hire Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) or Tom Izzo and have them consult, too? The league has very strict and specific rules on when we can and can’t have contact with high school players or underclassmen. But Isiah can do that with his current college job and also working again for the Knicks? That’s got to be in violation of those rules.”
The short answer to the anonymous GM’s question is that nothing is stopping teams from hiring Coaches K, Izzo, et al. to consult other than willingness to pay. NY gets no competitive advantage hiring Thomas when other teams are free to hire their own consultants too. The NCAA has been clear that it does not oppose such deals. Perhaps those with a knowledge of contract law may yet point to something I missed, but the charge that consulting with a sitting college coach de facto violates league policy prohibiting contact with draft-ineligible players sounds flimsy. Lots of people play dual roles. Typically, they must be able to account for time spent in either role and demonstrate that they operate within the rules governing both. If someone charges them with specific violations he must prove them–not just assume them.
To wit, unless the WNBA’s bylaws are very different than the NBA’s, Thomas’s contract is not without precedent. The league has allowed University of Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summit to consult for the Washington Mystics specifically on the draft. As you are probably aware lots of Tennessee players get drafted.
I can see where the league might ask for clarifications or alterations, but I’d be shocked to see the deal voided on principle. Of course, stranger things have happened. Either way, once this chapter is over and done with we can get back to our search for the answer to the really important question. What makes the love between Dolan and Thomas so… undying? After the way she got thrown under the bus, I bet Isiah Thomas’s daughter would like to know too.