NEW YORK — Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan says he has “a tremendous amount of respect” for Isiah Thomas’ “skill and his talent.”
Dolan hired Thomas as the president of the WNBA’s New York Liberty in May, seven years after the Hall of Famer’s unsuccessful stint as New York Knicks president ended. A lawsuit brought by former team employee Anucha Browne Sanders alleging that she was sexually harassed by Thomas cost MSG $11.6 million.
In his first interview about rehiring Thomas, Dolan tells HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” in a segment scheduled to air Tuesday night that “I think I’ve always understood him.”
“I don’t know if I can explain it other than that there’s something inside of both of us that’s really quite similar: the tenacity, the stubbornness,” Dolan adds. “Isiah’s a guy who doesn’t believe in his limitations, and I’m a guy who doesn’t believe in his limitations.”
The Knicks didn’t win a single playoff game during Thomas’ stint as team president from December 2003 to April 2008 despite regularly owning the NBA’s highest payroll. Thomas also went 56-108 in two seasons as their coach before being fired.
Of picking Thomas to run the Liberty, Dolan says: “I didn’t think I would get a better person to do that job than him. He would draw attention to the team.”
The Liberty had the best regular-season record in the WNBA this past season, setting a team record for wins, before falling in the Eastern Conference finals.
Dolan, whose father founded HBO, adds that “I think we’re going to be friends for a long time.”