Isiah Thomas is one of the greatest point guards of all time. Thomas played for the Detroit Pistons his entire career. And because of his performances with the franchise, he will be remembered as the greatest player to represent the Pistons. Thomas was the leader of the Pistons of the late '80s, who were known as the 'Bad Boys' of the NBA.
The 'Bad Boy' Pistons of the late 80s dominated the Eastern Conference, constantly toppling the Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls en route to the NBA Finals. The Pistons won two NBA championships with Thomas as the leader, and he was named Finals MVP for both those series. Thomas' importance to those Pistons teams makes him one of the best to ever do it.
But the same cannot be said for Thomas' time as a head coach. Isiah Thomas became the head coach for the Indiana Pacers in 2000. Thomas was pivotal in bringing players like Jermaine O'Neal to the forefront of the team.
The Pacers struggled with Thomas as the head coach and fell from being title contenders to a fledgling mid-table franchise. For his poor showing, Thomas was let go in just three seasons after new Pacers president Larry Bird took office and the Pacers replaced him with Rick Carlisle.
Carlisle was able to improve the Pacers upon his arrival. With Reggie Miller, Ron Artest, and O'Neal at the helm, the Pacers reached the Eastern Conference Finals against the Pistons.
But they couldn't beat the Pistons, who eventually won the championship. Carlisle was the head coach of the Indiana Pacers when the infamous 'Malice At The Palace' took place. The brawl between players and fans of the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers became one of the most reviled incidents in NBA history.
But Isiah Thomas believes that he could have helped avoid the 'Malice At The Palace' incident, and eventually led the Pacers to the NBA Championship. Thomas noted that he was replaced by Carlisle, but if he was allowed time to run the team his way, he could have led the Pacers to a championship.
On top of that, Thomas claimed that he would not have allowed the brawl at The Palace to take place. Thomas is a Pistons legend and believes that fans hold him in high regard and wouldn't act violently toward his team.
"I was the coach that Carlisle replaced. Had I not got fired, I believe I’d won a championship with that team. I don’t believe there would’ve been a Malice at the Palace because I don’t believe the Pistons fans would’ve acted that way with me coaching that team."
Thomas got another coaching opportunity in later years, getting the chance to be the head coach of the New York Knicks. But that stint was even worse than his time in Indiana. Regardless of his run as a head coach, Thomas will always be remembered as one of the best players in NBA history.