Isola: James Dolan’s timing can’t be good for Phil Jackson

By on October 20, 2015
Frank Isola

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, October 19, 2015, 10:58 PM

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Phil Jackson cannot like what he hears out of Knicks owner James Dolan in a recent HBO interview. 

James Dolan grants on-camera interviews about as often as the Knicks win playoff series.

It’s so rare in fact − kind of like a Big Foot sighting − that when we get a straight shot of Dolan unplugged it is some of the best entertainment Madison Square Garden produces. It’s certainly more original than the endless reruns of “Serpico” that Dolan’s network airs all summer long.

Dolan once again comes to Isiah Thomas’ defense in the latest edition of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” a top news program that isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. Occasionally, the answers make you cringe.

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In the piece featuring Dolan’s complicated relationship with Isiah the answers are not terribly shocking. Just incredibly revealing.

“I think I’ve always understood him,” Dolan tells the host, Gumbel.

“I don’t know if I can explain it other than that there’s something inside both of us that’s really quite similar: the tenacity, the stubbornness. Isiah’s a guy who doesn’t believe in his limitations, and I’m a guy who doesn’t believe in my limitations.”

Oh, to be next to Phil Jackson when he first hears this.

Of course, this is a good get for HBO and Gumbel, the veteran broadcaster who I’m guessing has a greater appreciation today for those assigned to cover the Knicks and Rangers on a regular basis.

The Dolan-Thomas story is a familiar one: the fallout from an almost decade-old harassment trial that resulted in a jury awarding former MSG female executive Anucha Browne Sanders $ 11.6 million in damages. Dolan lost some chump change while Isiah had his career and reputation hammered.

The Hall of Fame point guard with the mega-watt smile has since spent the last eight years fighting to restore his good name and, presumably, work his way back into an NBA front office. As luck would have it there happens to be an NBA front office at 2 Penn Plaza in Manhattan.

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Dolan continues to show admiration and support for Isiah Thomas. 

It has been Thomas’ contention that he had very little day-to-day contact with Browne Sanders and that he shouldn’t be held responsible for a hostile work environment at MSG because he wasn’t in charge of the Garden.

Thomas does accept some responsibility for former Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury calling Browne Sanders a “b—-.” Thomas feels that as the Knicks coach he could have had more control over a high-maintenance franchise player. Thomas, however, says he never addressed her in that manner.

That part of the story is old. We’ve known for some time how Dolan and Thomas feel about the jury’s verdict. The question is why the need to address it again? And why is the camera-shy Dolan doing this now.

We get the part of Dolan and Isiah being lifetime pals. Dolan made that abundantly clear when paraphrased Donkey from the movie “Shrek” and told HBO “I think we’re going to be friends for a long time.”

The timing of all of this is interesting, especially the part about Dolan renewing his vows so publicly on the eve of the NBA season. Isiah already has a job as president of the WNBA Liberty, an appointment that sparked controversy that eventually abated as the team advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

Jackson was reportedly upset over the hiring and for good reason. Phil doesn’t have the same relationship with Dolan that Isiah has and never will.

What Jackson has now is a short leash, courtesy of the 17-win season and the mess surrounding Derek Fisher’s unfortunate trip to Los Angeles after the fifth day of practice.

The Knicks have played very well in October but this is the preseason. Cleveland entered Monday with a 0-6 record. Looks can be deceiving at this time of year.

The Knicks face a tough schedule to begin the season and a quick start would be beneficial to both Jackson and Fisher. Otherwise, things will get interesting. And before you know it the Isiah Redemption Tour, produced by James Dolan, will be leaving the Liberty for the NBA team.

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