The rumors were true. Depending on who you ask the Knicks either "re-hired" Isiah Thomas, or just put an official label on a position he was already holding within the organization. Here's what the Knicks are saying:
"Isiah Thomas brings unique experience as a Hall of Fame player, coach, executive and owner, and we believe having him as part of our organization will be extremely beneficial to the team’s success. Isiah was helpful to the team’s senior management during our most recent recruitment efforts, including assisting with the acquisition of Amar’e Stoudemire. He will provide valuable insight and analysis of young prospects from around the world. Isiah will remain head coach of FIU, and that will continue to be his primary responsibility."
"I’m excited to once again be a part of the New York Knicks organization. I was honored to have been asked to help during the recent free agent recruiting process, and believe that this new role takes full advantage of my skill set as an evaluator of basketball talent. While I will of course continue in my role as FIU’s coach, I look forward to working with Donnie, Coach D’Antoni and all of the Knicks staff to help bring a championship back to New York," said Mr. Thomas.
First of all, settle down. Thomas had already been working behind the scenes with the Knicks for a while, so it's pretty silly to get huffy all of a sudden just because there was an announcement. It appears that Isiah will have zero decision-making responsibilities and that his primary roles are as a scout and an ambassador of the team. He did play a role in the courting of Stoudemire, and seems to have some clout in the basketball community that you and I can't fully understand. (The part about Thomas retaining his position at FIU is wacky, though, and we'll be hearing more about that.)
All of that said, Isiah must be a goddamn wizard of some sort. That or the Knicks owe him a favor after this summer's free agency. As far as the actual business of the front office goes, this is a drop in the river. In the media and among fans, though-- and particularly at this time of year-- it's a tidal wave. The mere invocation of Isiah's name and face is enough to trigger PTSD-like outbursts in anybody invested in the Knicks. This is doubly true when it's a quiet afternoon in the dog days of August and we don't have actual basketball to distract us. The huffiness that I mentioned earlier (which has already crept into the comments and has dominated Twitter for the last few hours) is an overreaction, but it's also kind of understandable. Isiah is an artifact of a sadder, scarier Knicks organization of which we'd rather not be reminded. If one of us was running the Knicks we wouldn't touch the guy with a ten-foot pole. It's just an obvious no-no. Hell, I'd probably stay clear of Isaiah Thomas, Etan Thomas, and Thomas' English Muffins just for good measure. Therefore, we must not know the whole story about his pull in NBA circles (Edit: Or with James Dolan, to be cynical.). Are Isiah's gifts as a talent evaluator/recruiter/whatever so superior that New York can afford such an egregious PR faux pas? The Knicks believe they are. We may or may not learn the logic behind this in the future. I'd say it's more likely that we forget Isiah's even around once the season starts. In the meantime, don't fret. This probably changes nothing. It's just really strange.