The first thing I read this morning was by Adrian Wojnarowski and it set a bad tone for my day,
For 15 years, Jeff Nix worked his way as an advance scout, assistant coach, scouting director and assistant general manager with the New York Knicks. He worked with four of the five most winning coaches in NBA history â€“ Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown. Ernie Grunfeld and Jeff Van Gundy could never agree on anything, but they did on Nix.
He survived regime after regime at the Garden because his employers trusted his loyalty to the Knicks, the job.
“Nix of the Knicks,” the media guide called him.
That was until sometime after Jan. 1, when Nix was deposed by lawyers probing Browne Sanders’ claims that Thomas had berated her and later made inappropriate passes at her. As he did then and again in federal court this week, Nix testified to witnessing Thomas hugging Browne Sanders in a Garden hallway in February of 2004, and her pushing away. When Nix asked her what happened, he testified, she told him that Thomas said he was in love with her and that their contentious relationship reminded Thomas of the characters in the movie “Love and Basketball.”
What’s more, Browne Sanders told Nix at the time that Thomas called her a “(expletive) bitch, and a “(expletive) ho,” after reporting to Thomas that another Knicks executive, Frank Murphy, had called her a “bitch.”
Nix had nothing to gain by backing Browne Sanders, except perhaps a clear conscience and a sober stare in the mirror every morning.
And to lose? Between those depositions in January and the trial this week, Nix was dismissed of his duties as director of scouting.
In Nix’s mind, telling the truth would cost him a $250,000-a-year job.
Nix wants this nightmare behind him and wouldn’t be interviewed for this column, but a close friend of his in basketball said, “The moment Jeff told what he knew in the depositions, he understood he was finished at the Garden. He knew they would get rid of him, and they did.
“But he also knew that he couldn’t live with himself if he didn’t tell the truth.”
As little respect as most league owners and executives have for Dolan, Thomas and the Garden, it will be fascinating to see how many admire Nix for doing the difficult thing, for sacrificing a career on principle, and how many still subscribe to the locker room code that says siding with a female marketing V.P. over the top basketball executive and coach is a move of weakness, even treachery. No matter how disdainful the alleged behavior with Thomas, in some corners, there’s still the belief that Nix should’ve protected one of his own â€“ a basketball guy.
I want to blame this on the Knicks. It is easy to not like James Dolan. He may be the most incompetent owner of any major league sports franchise (and yes I have put some thought into that) and while I liked Isaiah the player, I have never been a fan of Isaiah the coach, business man or executive. If these allegatation are true, I don’t have a lot of respect for Isaiah the man either but this isn’t about the Knicks, it is about the last line.
in some corners, there’s still the belief that Nix should’ve protected one of his own â€“ a basketball guy
Sadly that happens outside of the Knicks, outside of basketball, outside of sports and is all over the place. If Isaiah did it, let him be accountable for it but of course it doesn’t work that way, not in the NBA at least.
I hear sports gurus question Roger Goodall and wonder if he is ruining the NFL, as if the NFL couldn’t function without guys drinking and driving, assualting people at strip clubs, and running dog fighting rings. I look at the NHL and see a culture of drunk driving and the league doing nothing about it and I wonder why we allow sports figures (outside of the NFL) to act the way they do and look the other way. I think of Lawerence Phillips and his history of violence and yet fans in St. Louis, San Francisco, Calgary, and Montreal all embraced him because he helped the team. It can be tough to be a Saskatchewan fan but one of the days I was proud to be one was the day when they fired Roy Shivers and hired Eric Tillman who was given the mandate to win but win in a way that the fans would be proud of their team. Not all communities demand that but I respect franchises like the Phoenix Suns who do place character over winning.