NEW YORK—A meeting held at Madison Square Garden Wednesday between New York Knicks ownership and head coach Isiah Thomas was interrupted more than half a dozen times by "Fire Isiah" chants which came at various points throughout the two-hour-long discussion, Knicks officials reported.
The mocking chants—which sources speculate were inspired by Thomas' conviction for sexual harassment, his lax punishment of guard Stephon Marbury for abandoning the team last week, and the consistent failure of an overpaid roster that Thomas himself is responsible for recruiting—could be overheard from outside the boardroom's entrance, and were regularly followed by five claps: two slower ones followed by three in rapid succession.
"Fire I-si-ah!" board members shouted in unison as Thomas reportedly tried to explain that his team was, in fact, making incremental but tangible progress. "Fire I-si-ah!"
According to Madison Square Garden L.P.'s Vice Chairman Hank Ratner, the meeting started on an icy note when administrative assistant Sheryl Jones opened the conference room doors and announced Thomas' name, inspiring the entire room to erupt into a chorus of loud boos that lasted for nearly one minute.
Ratner said the boos were immediately followed by what was in fact the second "Fire Isiah" chant, the first of which began when Thomas called to inform the Knicks front office that he would be five minutes late for the meeting.
"If you would have asked me four years ago if Isiah Thomas would be booed mercilessly every time he took the floor in his home office, I would have said you were nuts," Knicks primary owner James Dolan said. "Now? I wouldn't be shocked if this happens every work day."
Even when the chants subsided, Dolan said, Thomas still experienced other forms of hostility from all 15 board members in attendance, including multiple rounds of sarcastic clapping when Thomas talked optimistically about his team's four wins, several thrown C-cell batteries that narrowly missed Thomas' head, and intermittent shouts of "You suck," "My 5-year-old daughter could do a better coaching job," and "Die."
Ratner stated that, as Thomas continued to speak concerning the Knicks' chances to secure one of the eight playoff spots in the NBA's Eastern Conference, many at the meeting used the "thunder sticks" they received for free at the offices' front entrance in an apparent attempt to distract Thomas from his train of thought.
In addition, when Thomas defended his coaching strategy and failed to offer any suggestions as to how he could immediately make the Knicks a better basketball team, frustrated board members began a 30-second-long "asshole" chant.
Those board members too upset and flabbergasted to shout any obscenities reportedly buried their faces in their hands, slouched back in their leather chairs, sighed, and repeated "God, we suck" in defeated tones.
Though Thomas' expression remained stoic throughout the meeting, New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather said Thomas appeared slightly fazed when the president of MSG Sports Steve Mills walked in carrying an Isiah Thomas effigy he made at home prior to the meeting.
"[The effigy] had a noose tied around its neck," said Sather, adding that the doll was dressed in a white collared shirt that had "Devil" written across its chest. "You could tell that Isiah saw it out of the corner of his eye, and when Steve hung it from the office ceiling, Isiah's voice briefly cracked. But, he managed to keep it together, telling us that all the team needed was a little more time to gel, and that the players hadn't been given a chance to get into a real rhythm yet."
"That's the type of cool you need to be a successful coach in New York," Sather said. "I mean, you'd think so, anyway. Right?"
When the meeting ultimately let out, Thomas experienced further harassment from upper management during the post-meeting press conference.
"This comes with the territory of being a part of a professional sports team in New York City," Thomas said as Dolan, who was reportedly drunk during the entire second half of the meeting, exposed his backside to the coach and all media present. "You just have to block it all out."
Dolan later apologized to Thomas for his childish actions and assured him his job was safe.