NEW YORK — Isiah Thomas will not be returning to the New York Knicks after all.
Thomas said Wednesday in a statement he was declining a position as a consultant with the franchise he ran for 4 1/2 years because it may not be legal.
"After speaking with commissioner Stern and Knicks executives, it has become apparent that my new agreement violates certain NBA bylaws," Thomas said. "Because of this, I have decided to rescind my contract with the team."
Thus ends — at least for now — the surprising and controversial reunion between the Knicks and the frequent target of fans and media during his turbulent tenure at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks announced the agreement with Thomas on Friday and it was quickly criticized. League personnel are not allowed contact with players who are not yet eligible for the draft, which Thomas would have in his role as Florida International University coach.
"We have been informed by the Knicks that Isiah Thomas has rescinded his consulting agreement with the team. As a result, it is not necessary for the league to take any formal action on the proposed arrangement," Stern said. "However, we have reminded the Knicks of NBA rules that prohibit team personnel, including consultants, from having contact with players not eligible for the draft."
Thomas could have chosen to leave his college job after just one season and keep the Knicks position. Instead, he thanked the organization for giving him another chance.
"Although I'm disappointed that Isiah will not be working with the Knicks as a consultant, I continue to believe in his basketball knowledge, including his ability to judge talent," MSG chairman James Dolan said. "He's a good friend of mine and of the organization and I will continue to solicit his views. He will always have strong ties to me and the team. We wish him continued success at FIU."
Thomas also blamed himself for the Knicks' poor performance while he was team president from December 2003 through April 2008. He was also the coach the final two seasons and the team never won a postseason game while he was in charge.
"One of the biggest regrets of my life is that the Knicks didn't perform up to the standards the fans had every right to expect while I was in charge. I take full responsibility for that," he said. "I was very much looking forward to this unique opportunity to help the organization do what I do best: find basketball talent. I wish the team nothing but success in the future."
Thomas aided the Knicks during free agency when he went to Ohio to speak with a member of LeBron James' inner circle. Donnie Walsh, who replaced Thomas as president and later fired him as coach, thanked Thomas during the press conference to announce Amare Stoudemire's signing.
That fueled speculation in New York that Thomas, a favorite of Dolan, could return to the Knicks, perhaps even in a management role. But Dolan said Wednesday he is confident in the team he has in place.
"I also believe Donnie Walsh has done a terrific job since joining the Knicks and my tremendous respect for him has only grown since he's joined the organization," Dolan said. "I'm confident that the work that Donnie, coach Mike D'Antoni and their staffs have done this summer has the team poised for long-term success."
The decision should calm members of the basketball community who questioned the partnership. Among them was Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who said he would decline an offer to be a paid consultant of an NBA team.
"I don't think you can be in both worlds, in an official basis. I think that makes people in both worlds somewhat angry about it, or concerned," Krzyzewski said. "You're getting a leg up, and in college we definitely shouldn't do that."
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