MIAMI — Isiah Thomas thought he would be dead by age 20, so at 49 he offers no apologies for betting on himself. Exiled in Miami, haunted by his proximity to LeBron James, Thomas embraces his articles of blind faith like one would a baby in a storm.
Isiah believes James (and perhaps Dwyane Wade) would be starting for the New York Knicks if Isiah had remained president of the team.
Isiah believes he can recruit James out of Miami and into Madison Square Garden in 2014.
Isiah believes that, with or without James, he will someday help the Knicks win their first NBA title since 1973.
“I want to be on the float and I want to get my ring,” Thomas said.
As he stepped out of a soft South Florida rain and into a Coconut Grove restaurant the other day, Thomas, now the head coach of Florida International University, projected that familiar boyish vibe he maintained as a grown-up player, coach and executive in the NBA.
Wearing sneakers, sweatpants and a white T-shirt bearing the FIU name and teeth-baring Golden Panthers logo, Thomas looked fit enough to take an outlet pass from Dennis Rodman and lead a three-on-one break.
But in a wide-ranging two-hour interview with ESPNNewYork.com, Thomas spent far less time on his Hall of Fame playing days in Detroit than he did on his tumultuous time as an executive and coach in New York, where he believes a sexual harassment trial cost him a job he is driven to reclaim.
Asked if he hopes to replace Donnie Walsh whenever the 69-year-old Knicks president retires, Thomas said, “Every single day of the week.