The New York Knicks finally removed Isiah Thomas as their head coach and President after 4.5 years of dreadfully embarrassing performance. They now have an excellent opportunity to recover the good image they once owned, and that opportunity is to hire a woman head basketball coach, like Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, to coach their team.
For those of us that recall the prestige of the Knicks from the 1970’s, Isiah’s reign was the most destructive. It is no accident that intellectual artists like Woody Allen and Spike Lee are Knickerbocker fans, as the old image encompassed dignity, intellectualism, togetherness, and spiritualism. The Knicks of that time won with high level intellectual discussions from the likes of Bill Bradley and Phil Jackson about politics, philosophy, and deep books. Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier had an air of smooth yet flashy dignity in the way he dressed and spoke. The team’s coach, Red Holzman, was a quiet dignified man, who rode the train home after games, and drank a glass of tea with his wife before he went to bed. Those Knicks teams won because they played together selflessly, for the good of the team, without losing their love of each other and individualism.
Those days are gone, and the Isiah reign gave the Knicks an image of shame, sexism, and racism. Not only did Isiah’s teams lose, but they also sacrificed the future to do so – by adding large long-term contracts. Isiah was sued and found guilty of sexual discrimination, in a trial that revealed apparent rampant sexist corruption in MSG. Isiah, in deposition, claimed that it is less offensive when a Black man calls a woman a ‘bitch’.
The Knicks fans, obviously bitter about the state of the team, demanded Isiah be removed from his position. Instead, Isiah was given a new long term contract and the fans were attacked by Knicks representatives. Fans were abused by the team for posting signs of ‘Fire Isiah’. Right now, the Knicks have a horrible image that they need to address with more than just an attempt to improve the team’s won/loss record. It will take tremendous effort to bring back their image, but I think it can be done.
The best and only way for the Knicks to retrieve their image would be to hire a top female head coach, like Pat Summitt from Tennessee. Here are the benefits to such a move:
- The Knicks will go from appearing as the most sexist team, to the team working hardest and most honestly for woman’s rights
- All women, and men like me, who are intolerant of sexism will be able to root for the Knicks.
- Woman will finally be able to get their reasonable chance to move into the NBA
- Even the most sexist Knicks fans will stay Knicks fans, if they were stubborn enough to remain through Isiah’s reign.
- If the players do not want to play for a woman (not an issue IMO), these current ones are expendable.
- David Stern claims to want to expand the NBA market. Let’s see how serious he is.
- The NBA and MSG’s market and profit will increase tremendously. This decision will make money and dollars, to put it in crude business terms.
- No doubt the press of hiring the first female basketball coach will make people forget Isiah’s horrible actions very quickly.
- There is absolutely NO reason why a female cannot coach as well as a man. If one of the best female coaches is chosen, the Knicks could have a real find.
- Pat Summitt and any other top level female coach would presumably jump at the chance to help their sport and gender in such a way
I see no downside to such an action for the Knicks or the NBA. If the Knicks do not move in this direction, but instead hire someone like Mark Jackson or some old coach, they are not serious about winning back the fans – and they deserve to continue to be boo’d, boycotted and criticized. In fact, it would underscore their blatant sexist behavior.
Jim Dolan and Donnie Walsh – do the right thing for your company, shareholders, the people, and for the fans, hire Pat Summitt to be your next head coach. It is the only way.
Update: The Knicks GM Donnie Walsh was asked about Pat Summitt as new head coach, if she contacted him: “would she stand a realistic chance of actually getting the job?
“No,” he said without elaborating”
Edited to correct spelling of Red Holzman. Also note: Although there are references to Walt Frazier’s nickname ‘Clyde the Glide’, he was commonly referred to as simply ‘Clyde’ during his playing career. Text has been updated to reflect the more commonly used nickname. (thanks to anonymous reader who pointed these out in a different forum)