Isiah Thomas was fired as coach of the New York Knicks yesterday after a season of listless and dreadful basketball, a tawdry lawsuit, and unending chants from fans demanding Thomas's dismissal.
Thomas, the coach for two seasons, will remain with the organization, reporting directly to new president Donnie Walsh, a rapid fall for Thomas, who also was team president a little more than two weeks ago.
"It's very difficult to be the coach and general manager," Walsh said. "Maybe it was too much."
Walsh took over Thomas's role as team president April 2, and his first big decision was to change coaches as he begins the process of turning around a team that never won a playoff game in Thomas's tenure.
"I just believe a new voice, a new coach, is necessary to change the direction of the team," Walsh said. "This is a coveted job. People want to coach here.
The Knicks finished 23-59, matching the franchise record for losses, in their seventh straight losing season.
"I can't tell you really where we failed," Walsh said. "The bottom line is we haven't won, and the team didn't look like it was motivated to try to win."
This season alone, Thomas was found to have sexually harassed a former team employee, feuded with point guard Stephon Marbury, and benched center Eddy Curry - the players Thomas acquired in the two biggest of a number of moves that never panned out.
Walsh wants a new coach in place by the draft in June.
Walsh said he hasn't talked to any candidates, but mentioned former Knick and current TV analyst Mark Jackson and assistant coach Herb Williams as people who likely will be interviewed.
"Obviously, when you're losing, there has to be a culture change," he said. "There's no easy answer . . . We've got to work 24-7 to become competitive."
The Sonics could begin playing in owner Clay Bennett's hometown as early as next season if they can get out of the remaining two years of their lease at KeyArena.
In New York, owners voted 28-2 in favor of the move, with Dallas and Portland voting against.
Stern said although owners understand the move is from a larger market to a much smaller one, they "focused on the likelihood of success in Oklahoma City."
Seattle has filed suit trying to force the Sonics to remain in the city until the lease expires in 2010. The city already has rejected Bennett's $26 million to settle the lease dispute. A trial is set to begin in federal court June 16.