By Skip Bayless
Page 2

You're probably a fan of a pro sports team. Maybe you're a fanatic. Maybe, truth be told, your team is more important to you than your mother.

Maybe nothing in life gives you greater joy and pain than your team. Maybe you've attached your very self-worth to your team's performance. When it wins, you brag to friends and coworkers as if you're superior because you chose to be a fan of this great team. When it loses, you want to go into hiding.

James Dolan
Gregory Bull/AP Photo
James Dolan is not a popular man in New York, despite his deep pockets.

Owners like James Dolan are your worst nightmare. You are a prisoner of his decisions, and you probably could run his team -- your team -- better than he does.

If you're a New York Knicks fan, bless you, you're being held hostage by James Dolan. He deserved to be fired long ago, but you cannot fire him. You cannot vote him out of office. Your only way out is to quit watching Knicks games in person and on TV and hope enough of your fellow fans quit watching to drive this clown out of business.

But you know that's not realistic. The Knicks are your life -- or at least a big part of it. And you can't quit watching because, well, at least Dolan pours a fair amount of his Cablevision profits back into the team. At least he has the NBA's highest payroll. At least he went out and hired the best coach available -- Brooklyn-born Larry Brown -- and paid him more money than any coach in any sport has ever made.

So even though the Knicks gave you probably the worst season in franchise history, losing 59 of 82 games, you cannot divorce them. You know they could -- should! -- turn it around at any moment.

And James Dolan knows he has you by the eyeballs. He knows he can get away with some of the most embarrassing mismanagement this side of Bill Bidwill, because you can't -- or won't -- do anything about it.

Oh, you could heckle him and boo him if you saw him at Madison Square Garden or out in public. But he's at least smart enough to avoid what made his father (and in turn him) so wealthy -- the TV cameras. You never see him. In fact, you're probably not exactly sure what the man who controls your joy looks like.

Yet this spoiled brat has turned your Knicks into such a national laughingstock that it's debatable which is worse: Los Angeles without an NFL team or New York with an NBA team.

Your Knicks are now what the Clippers used to be -- a Leno-Letterman punch line.

Isiah Thomas
Julie Jacobson/AP Photo
Isiah Thomas' record as a coach doesn't exactly inspire confidence.

Now Dolan has shamed you like never before. Now, if Sunday's reports are true, he's going to fire Larry Brown after one season and replace him with your general manager, Isiah Thomas. (Or maybe with uninspiring former interim coach Herb Williams.) That's right, "Dough-lan" is so rich and so basketball-dumb that he's going to buy out the remaining $40-odd million on Brown's contract and perhaps replace him with the GM who should have been fired two years ago. With his good buddy Isiah, who was no better than a mediocre coach for three seasons in Indiana (131-115) before getting fired because he couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs.

Sure, you can argue that Isiah created this roster disaster, so he should be sentenced to coach it.

But you don't sentence Enron executives to run Enron.

If Dolan does fire Brown, it will go down as his dumbest move yet. Larry Brown is a lot of things -- job jumper, media manipulator, con artist of superstar egos -- but he is not a bad basketball coach. He might tell an occasional fib, but his history doesn't lie. When fans least expected it -- at UCLA and Kansas, with the Clippers and Spurs and Sixers and Pistons -- he gave them bragging rights they'll never forget.

Yes, you or I could perhaps have won more games than Brown did with your Knicks this past season. But there was method to his badness. He needed to tear down all those puffed-up egos, then build them back up. He needed the Stephons and Eddys to come crawling back next year and say, "OK, we'll do it your way."

Brown's method doesn't work well with unrealistic first-year expectations. And that's what your overreacting New York media gave this prodigal son as a welcome-home gift. Playoffs, here we come!

Admit it: You bought into it.

But when much of the team predictably mutinied on Brown, he experienced a career first. Larry Brown got Larry Browned. Isiah, the GM who hired him, sold him out. Isiah didn't defend Brown to the players -- or to the owner.

Isiah managed to get just about everyone within the organization to condemn Brown for what so many outside the organization can easily see is Isiah's fault.

Isiah Thomas gave Jerome James $22 million for four years? The same James who averaged 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds last season? GMs around the league were belly laughing over that one.

That move alone should have cost Isiah his job.

So why didn't it? Because, trust me, Isiah can be a blast to be around. He can talk hoops as convincingly as he played them. Great smile, even better laugh. A little "street" mixed with a little Wall Street. A charmer of a hustler.

Larry Brown
Frank Franklin II/AP Photo
Larry Brown may not have to suffer another season with these Knicks.

And his latest mark is a real guppy. Dolan is a wannabe rock star who can be as easily manipulated by famous people as he can be angered by underlings. The biggest "mistake" Brown made last season -- you should consider it a plus -- was avoiding kissing up to Dolan. That really ticked off the thin-skinned, tantrum-throwing owner.

Meanwhile, Isiah was constantly telling his "bro" Jimbo what was really going on. This guy is Steinbrenner without a clue.

And you can't do a thing about any of this.

Really, how can you root for anyone here? Dolan has a reputation for ruthless business practice, including feuding with his benefactor/father Charles, a cable-TV pioneer. Isiah left a trail of controversy as the owner and operator of the Continental Basketball Association.

Your lone sympathy here should be for Brown's health problems, which could have played a part in his coaching performance last season and his possible dismissal now. The New York Post reported that Brown had another bladder surgery on Friday.

But it's hard to feel that sorry for him when you realize he conceivably could be paid a total of $50 million for one terrible season's work, then wind up making another $7 or $8 million to coach a team that could contend for next season's NBA title -- the Sacramento Kings.

Wait, is it possible Brown out-hustled Isiah, intentionally sabotaging last season so Dolan would fire him and he could take his 50 mil to Sacto, where a title-caliber roster awaits?

All I know for sure is that I feel sorry for you Knicks fans. There's little hope. And no way out.

Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice a week on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.




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DUMB AND DUMBER