Displeased commissioner assails Knicks as season opens

Updated: November 2, 2007, 9:08 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

This story has been corrected. Read below

NEW YORK -- Even with the NBA season under way, commissioner David Stern hasn't forgotten the New York Knicks' embarrassing offseason.

In an ESPN interview broadcast Tuesday, Stern questioned the conduct of Knicks management, which lost a sexual-harassment case in early October.

Asked about the state of the Knicks, Stern said: "It demonstrates that they're not a model of intelligent management. There were many checkpoints along the way where more decisive action would have eliminated this issue."

It wasn't clear if the "checkpoints" Stern was referring to were the franchise's decision not to settle the lawsuit brought by former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders, or its internal handling of Browne Sanders' allegations when they first surfaced, a question the New York Times first asked earlier this week.

... They're not a model of intelligent management.

-- David Stern, on Knicks management

Madison Square Garden chairman James L. Dolan, who hasn't spoken publicly since a jury ordered his team to pay $11.6 million to Browne Sanders, said in a statement Tuesday that "we have high regard for the commissioner.

"Right now, what we can all agree on is that the best thing for the Knicks is to get on the court and win some basketball games."

Right now, what we can all agree on is that the best thing for the Knicks is to get on the court and win some basketball games.

-- James L. Dolan, chairman of MSG

The Knicks open their season Friday at Cleveland.

Knicks coach Isiah Thomas was the primary defendant in the Browne Sanders lawsuit. He said he didn't hear Stern's comments but said Dolan spoke for the Knicks.

"Jim made a statement for the organization, and the statement speaks for itself," said Thomas, who has maintained his innocence since the lawsuit was filed last year.

In the past, Stern has not punished teams over civil judgments but he has not ruled out sanctions against the Knicks and Thomas. The Knicks have appealed the decision.

Stern said the case was "very much under review.

"I'm not considering any range of disciplinary action,'' Stern said, "but my powers are very broad if I choose to exercise them."

Stern's shot at Knicks management was as stinging as the fallout from the sexual-harassment case.

A portion of Thomas' deposition was shown in court during the trial and the tape showed Thomas saying he made a distinction between a black man calling a black woman "bitch" and a white man doing the same thing. The coach was criticized for that by Al Sharpton, who threatened to lead protests at Knicks games unless Thomas explained his remarks.

Thomas' remarks also drew the ire of C. Vivian Stringer. The Rutgers women's basketball coach was previously forced into the issue of men using derogatory language toward women when radio host Don Imus made a racist and sexist remark about her team after it lost to Tennessee in last season's national championship game.

In a recent interview with ESPN, Stringer said Thomas' comments were "disgusting."

"What does he think? This was a woman first," Stringer said. "He has no right to put her down, and then think it's OK for me to put her down but it's not all right for a white man to put her down. What are you talking about? She is a human being and as a female, and in particular as a black female, I took tremendous offense to that."

Thomas has said that his remarks were mischaracterized and he urged Stringer to "get the facts" about what he said during the sexual-harassment trial.

Later, Stringer apologized in a statement.

"The whole situation is most regrettable," she said. "It was not my position to insult Mr. Thomas in any way. I responded to a question of which I had partial information and was not aware of the full text of Mr. Thomas' statement. I am not in a place to make judgment on Isiah Thomas, [former team employee] Anucha Browne [Sanders] or the New York Knicks organization. I spoke to Isiah this morning and have apologized. I am hoping we can now get back to basketball."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

In this Oct. 31 ESPN.com news services story about David Stern and the New York Knicks, wording questioning what Stern was referencing in a quote about the team was similar to a question raised in a New York Times story on the same subject. Attribution has been added to the paragraph to make it clear the Times was first with the inquiry.