Originally Posted by ESPNEvery time the Knicks don't compete and end up on the wrong end of a lopsided score, the immediate reaction in New York is the same:
"So is this when Isiah fires Lenny?"
They're such big names on the American professional sports scene, you don't need their last names.
There's Isiah Thomas, the ex-Pistons great and current Knicks president who has been entrusted to build a championship team. And there's Lenny Wilkens, the Hall of Fame player and coach who is viewed in some quarters as nothing more than a caretaker until Thomas decides it's time to return to the sidelines.
New York isn't the easiest place in the world to coach, for starters. So when the Knicks really bomb, as they've done a few times this season, it can't be easy for Wilkens. The very next day, speculation about his job security is carried in war-type headlines.
But does he ever complain? Does he vent in the papers? Does he take it out on his players?
In a word, never.
Lenny Wilkens isn't old school, he's ancient school. If and when the time comes for him to leave the Knicks, he will not slam the Garden door behind him. He will act with as much class and dignity as ever.
Meanwhile, he chuckles about the fact that people -- like maybe Isiah -- think the Knicks should be better than they are.
"People have expectations that this is a great team," he said recently. "We're a good team and we're trying to get better. We're taking tiny steps."
That's about as critical of his boss as Wilkens will ever get. It's one of the reasons that Thomas hired him in the first place. Isiah knew he was getting someone who was comfortable staying out of the headlines, as difficult as that is in the Big Apple. Because of that, Isiah, who loves the limelight, can operate out in front.
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