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Starbury's Admission, and Boss Thomas

9/12/2007

Hey, look here's an active NBA star testifying about luring a drunk team intern into his vehicle for unspecified sexual activities!

This is one great day for the Knicks, huh?

It's hard to tell what this all means legally, if anything. The intern, a college student at the time, says the activity was consensual. And how all this fits into the case against Isiah Thomas is fuzzy to me at best at this point.

Some thoughts:

ESPN's Chris Broussard first met Isiah Thomas (Insider) when Broussard was in the seventh grade. And he has played basketball with Anucha Browne Sanders. So, his insights into the ongoing trial are certainly interesting.

My experiences with Isiah have always been good, dating back to when he was coaching the Pacers. I got to know him a little better after he was fired by the club and looking for work. Then, ever since he joined the Knicks, he's been real cool with me.

Isiah's reputation as a cutthroat is as strong as his rep as a great player. Several folks have told me not to trust him. But he's been good to me, both in front of the cameras and recorders and away from them.

But with all the mess I've heard about Isiah -- whether true or not -- I was shocked that he and the Knicks let this case go to trial. The Knicks reportedly tried to settle with Browne-Sanders, but their offer of a $300,000-a-year gig somewhere outside of MSG was a little less than the $6-10 million she had in mind.

I expected fireworks, and that's what we've gotten.

So far, Browne-Sanders has painted Isiah as a foul-mouthed boor who repeatedly referred to her as a b---- and a h-. But perhaps most damaging was her allegation that he spoke with disdain toward the Knicks' white season ticket-holders.

She testified that when she once asked him to sign a letter for season ticket-holders, he responded, "I don't give a f--- about these white people.''

That was certainly one surprise. But not the only one.

My thoughts about this whole case have shifted since reading about yesterday's testimony. The "kiss" incident and Isiah Thomas's alleged sexual advances ... that has been the story. But after reading Richard Sandomir's account in The New York Times, I think that some of the weirdest allegations are about Thomas's angry alleged management style:

Sanders, then the Knicks' senior vice president of marketing, testified that Thomas resisted letting players participate in community events like one in February 2004 with Poland Spring. "I was outside the locker room," she testified, "and he came out, grabbed my arm and pulled me into the bike room and screamed, 'We're not doing any more of these events. I'm trying to win basketball games.' "

His tirade was spiced with profanity and he addressed her as "bitch," as she testified that he often did. ...

She testified that she took her complaints about Thomas's behavior to Steve Mills, the president of MSG Sports. Mills hired her in 2000, promoted her, authorized her raises and bonuses and signed off on glowing evaluations. But she said Mills did nothing to persuade Thomas to end his hostility to her. After relaying to Mills an episode of Thomas's alleged verbal abuse, she said he responded, "Oh, Isiah's got a different way."

She said that at her insistence Mills once brought her and Thomas together for a meeting in Mills's office to patch up their differences.

But when Mills left to make a phone call, she testified, Thomas cursed her and said, "Just remember, I'm the president."

Sex and power are routinely mashed together in the strangest of ways. Did you know that one of the reasons dogs mount each other is to show who's boss?

The whole "I'm the president" thing sounds like one big "look who's the alpha dog" thing to me. After months and months of degrading, to then veer into anything remotely resembling "I have the hots for you" (if indeed he did, as has been alleged)? The one is a bad place to work. The other is harassment. The two together are kind of psycho.

It sounds like Steve Mills will be a key witness, in terms of clarifying how Anucha Browne Sanders was treated while working at the Garden. Thomas Zambito and Corky Siemaszko report for the New York Daily News:

Browne Sanders said she told Garden President Steve Mills about the encounter between Marbury and [Intern Kathleen] Decker and complained that she heard from others that Marbury had called her a "black bitch."

"I want you to make it stop," Browne Sanders said she told Mills.

Mills, Browne Sanders testified, warned her that if she didn't stay quiet Thomas would start rumors she was having an affair with MSG executive Jeff Nix.

"Steve, is that a threat?" Browne Sanders, a married mother of three, claims she told Mills. "Do I need to find a lawyer?"

This is one wild ride, huh? Maybe soon we'll all be in a position to make some more sense of it. I wish I could say I was hopeful that I thought it would result in reliably good working conditions in these kinds of situations. But really, do you want your kids to be interns at MSG at this point?

Any of you work at the Garden? Can you give us a sense what it's like?