Overdose of Pills Puts Isiah Thomas in Hospital
After a day of conflicting reports about the nature of the incident and who was hospitalized, a person directly involved in the investigation confirmed that it was Thomas. Thomas was released from the hospital later in the day and was reported to be fine.
Emergency personnel and police officers, responding to a 911 call, said they found a 47-year-old man unconscious at Thomas’s home in Purchase, N.Y. Although the authorities withheld the man’s name, Thomas is 47.
At least two earlier news reports indicated that Thomas was not involved, causing confusion. Thomas, in a brief cellphone interview with The New York Post, said it was his teenage daughter, Lauren, who was in distress. Thomas denied that anything had happened to him. His son, Joshua, gave a similar account, telling The Daily News that his sister has hypoglycemia, which is caused by low glucose in the bloodstream.
“Reports of sleeping pills are false,” Joshua Thomas told The Daily News. Referring to his father, he added: “He looked faint from stressing over her. They sat him down, let him drink some water. He’s fine.”
Reached Friday evening, Harrison Police Chief David Hall confirmed that a 47-year-old male had been taken from Thomas’s home. He refuted claims that the incident involved Thomas’s daughter.
“I understand that this person claims it was his daughter; he is lying,” Hall said. “It was definitely not his daughter, it was a male. We know the difference between a 47-year-old black male and a young black female.”
Hall said that the man was unconscious when officers arrived at the home shortly after midnight.
“We administered oxygen and we loaded him into an ambulance,” Hall said. “He was unconscious, but breathing. So we are calling this an accidental overdose of a prescription sleeping pill.”
Hall added, “We aren’t mind readers, so we don’t know why he did it, but there was nothing to indicate a suicide, no notes left.”
Hall said that a prescription bottle was handed over to officers, who gave it to ambulance personnel, who then handed it over to doctors at White Plains Hospital Center.
Thomas, who was hired as the Knicks’ president in December 2003, presided over one of the worst eras in franchise history — a four-and-a-half-year run in which the team cycled through five head coaches (including Thomas) and dozens of players, but never reached .500 despite a league-high payroll.
The Knicks went 23-59 last season, reaching a series of low points on and off the court. Thomas feuded with point guard Stephon Marburyand frequently benched center Eddy Curry, both of whom were acquired by Thomas and portrayed as franchise cornerstones.
In addition, Thomas and his employer, Madison Square Garden, were found liable for sexual harassment last October, with a jury finding in favor of a former team executive and awarding her $11.6 million in punitive damages.
In April, the Garden’s chairman, James L. Dolan, removed Thomas as team president, replacing him with Donnie Walsh. A few weeks later, Walsh removed Thomas as coach. But the team kept Thomas on the payroll, with no title, no authority and no office. He is an infrequent visitor to the team’s headquarters in Greenburgh, N.Y. Walsh said he uses Thomas as a consultant. In the spring, he dispatched Thomas to Italy to scout Danilo Gallinari, whom the Knicks later selected with the sixth pick in the June draft.
The Knicks released a statement Friday evening, but it provided little clarity.
“Isiah Thomas spoke with members of the New York Knicks’ organization and is O.K.,” the team said in the statement. “He is dealing with a family matter and we will have no further comment. He has asked that we respect his privacy and we will.”
As the Knicks prepared to play the Nets in their final preseason game Friday at Madison Square Garden, Thomas’s former players expressed concern for his well being.
Walsh said he had not seen Thomas since just before training camp opened in late September.
“I didn’t talk to him, but people in the franchise have spoken to him,” Walsh said.
Brendan Suhr, a longtime friend and former Knicks official under Thomas, said in a telephone interview that he was confident Thomas had not attempted to harm himself.
“He’s in a great frame of mind,” said Suhr, who said he spoke with Thomas earlier in the week. “That’s why I say that with such confidence.”
Suhr said that Thomas was in great shape, both mentally and physically, after taking time off.
“He is not depressed; he is not down,” Suhr said. “He is just the opposite. He’s a very upbeat guy.”
None of the Knicks players said they had talked with Thomas since training camp began.
“He seemed fine, it was good to see him,” said Jamal Crawford, who said he saw Thomas in early October. “I don’t know enough about it to really comment, but I just hope he’s doing well.”
While expressing concern over Thomas’s situation, Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks’ new coach, said he had little contact with Thomas in the last few months.
“I just feel bad about it like everybody else, but I have no knowledge about it,” D’Antoni said.