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Isiah Thomas Once Choked His Assistant Coach Out Of Frustration After Getting Busted Open By A Hard Foul: “Don’t Mess With The Detroit ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons."

Isiah Thomas Once Choked His Assistant Coach Out Of Frustration After Getting Busted Open By A Hard Foul: “Don’t Mess With The Detroit ‘Bad Boy’ Pistons."

Isiah Thomas was the leader of one of the most physical teams in NBA history; the 'Bad Boy' Detroit Pistons. During the late 1980s, Thomas and the Detroit Pistons played a thrashing and physical brand of basketball, which many fans and players did not. 

Teams knew they were in for a rough game filled with physicality when they played the Pistons. But it wasn't just other teams that were subjected to the physicality, as even the Pistons coaching staff had to endure it.

During a 1989 game between the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, two fierce Eastern Conference rivals at the time, Bill Cartwright busted open Isiah Thomas during a play. 

Thomas was livid and tried confronting Cartwright. Isiah was met by his assistant coach, Brendan Malone, who tried to calm him down. Thomas then surprisingly put his hands on Malone and had to be pulled away by Dennis Rodman.

There have been rumors that Brendan Malone told Isiah Thomas to take his anger out on him, as he didn't want Isiah to start a fight with Cartwright and possibly get ejected from the game. But this has never been confirmed.

After that game, Isiah Thomas spoke about Bill Cartwright, noting that he had spoken to several NBA higher-ups about the overly physical and dangerous play of Cartwright, and how he had managed to escape punishment up until that point.

“We have played the Bulls six times this year, and Cartwright has hit me five times. I stole the basketball from him, and he hit me. I pushed him and was about to turn away when he rushed me. You don't want to fight, but I’ve had to fight for everything I’ve gotten in life. Sometimes you have to.”

Most NBA fans will know Brendan Malone as the father of current Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone. Isiah Thomas spoke a few years ago about his relationship with the Malone family and the long history he shared with Brendan, and why he admires Mike Malone so much.

“I’ve known Michael Malone since he was 18 years old. Brendan Malone was our assistant coach in Detroit, and he has been a part of every NBA job I’ve ever had. He was our coach in Toronto, he was with me in Indiana, and for a while in New York. Our families are very close, and not only has he been a great coach to me, but he’s also been a great mentor for me and helped me navigate America through racial turmoil and strife. I love Brendan Malone, and I’m extremely happy to watch Michael succeed.”

Malone and Thomas would have a long relationship that lasted well after Isiah retired as a player. Brendan Malone would become the first-ever head coach of the Toronto Raptors but was fired after just one season. 

The man who fired him was none other than Isiah Thomas, who was the GM of the Raptors. Thomas offered Malone a front-office position, but Malone passed on that role.

One would imagine that this would have severed the relationship. But the two would work together again when Thomas invited Malone to join his coaching staff when Isiah became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.

Malone would eventually leave to join the Knicks coaching staff, where he would work with Thomas again, as Isiah was hired to be the Knicks' president of basketball operations. The two seemingly had a great relationship despite numerous ends to their professional collaborations.