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Monday, August 9, 2010
Two views of Isiah Thomas as a mentor

By Henry Abbott

In today's New York Times, columnist William C. Rhoden talks to Doris Ward, the mother of standout California high-school basketball player Josiah Turner, who is part of the class of 2011. Isiah Thomas has been a mentor to Turner.
“Isiah saw Josiah before the rest of them jumped on board this year,” Ward said Sunday during a phone interview. “He never strayed either way. Whether Josiah played great or he had an off-day, he’s always said he’s going to be a great player.”

She added: “He saw stuff in Josiah that now everyone else sees it a year later, but he saw it a year earlier. I have to respect him for that because he’s never wavered.”

Ward played high school basketball at Sacramento High and grew up watching Thomas. Until she met him last year, most of what she knew was what she read and it wasn’t pretty. “Of course you read the Internet and you read the different things on him and you kind of think, ‘Wow, you see him go from great player to G.M. to coach.’ You see all the different aspects, and then it seems like he was going to hit rock bottom.

“But then when you meet him and you get to know him as a person, you understand that for him, it’s bigger than basketball. He and my son talked about more than basketball. They talked about developing as a man, as a person. He’s an easy person to talk to, there’s not a bunch of stuff filtered in.”

Ward said that in many ways, the sum of Thomas’s résumé — the missteps to giant steps and the foibles — made him a great mentor. “Coach Thomas doesn’t need money, he doesn’t have to coach F.I.U., he doesn’t have to do what he does,” she said. “He doesn’t have to come see my son practice. Just the trials and tribulations he’s lived through, as a player and as a man, you can’t help but respect this guy.”

Then compare that to what Stephon Marbury had to say to the New York Post's Marc Berman about Thomas as a mentor:
Marbury, the linchpin acquisition of the Thomas era, once regarded the former Knicks president as a father figure.

"You can't judge a book by its cover," Marbury said. "I thought it was real."

I don't know which view is most accurate about Thomas and what he's like today -- people can evolve with time, Stephon Marbury could see things different than others would. But it's striking how opposite these two current views are.