NEW YORK (AP) -Months after berating her in expletive-filled tirade, New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas moved from cursing to courting a fellow executive now suing the basketball Hall of Famer for sexual harassment, a former team employee testified Tuesday.
Jeffrey Nix, a 15-year employee of the NBA team, took the stand in U.S. District Court to recount a series of conversations he had with his friend and co-worker, plaintiff Anucha Browne Sanders, throughout 2004.
Sanders, in tones of disgust, detailed how Thomas initially treated her with contempt shortly after his December 2003 arrival in New York, Nix testified.
At one meeting meant to resolve any issues between Sanders and Thomas, the two-time NBA champion guard, lashed out at her by calling her a ``bitch'' and reminding her in even harsher language he is the president of the team, Nix said his friend told him.
Browne Sanders also told Nix, he testified, that Thomas had asked her in March 2004: ``What are your job responsibilities, you ... ho?'' Thomas added an obscenity for emphasis, according to the secondhand account.
By the end of the year, though, Nix testified that he saw Thomas embracing Browne Sanders in Madison Square Garden after a Knicks' victory, and watched as his friend pushed the coach away.
``You're not going to believe what he just said,'' Nix quoted Browne Sanders as saying. ``He just said, 'I'm in love with you.''' Nix said Sanders was upset and confused by Thomas' switch from verbally abusive to amorous.
Browne Sanders is suing Thomas and Madison Square Garden for $10 million in a sexual harassment suit that also seeks reinstatement to the job that she held for five years with the once-storied franchise that won its last title in 1973.
Thomas, who has denied the allegations, sat with his hands folded in front of his face at the defense table, tilted his head slightly and listened intently as Nix testified. Nix, who held a variety of bench and front office jobs with the Knicks, was let go by the Thomas regime at the end of August.
Sanders, a married mother of three and former Northwestern basketball star, joined the Knicks in late 2000. The vice president of marketing and business operations was fired in January 2006. She said the dismissal came after she complained to MSG management. The Garden claims she failed to ``fulfill professional responsibilities.''
Nix appeared one day after jurors watched a videotaped deposition in which Thomas insisted he had never cursed at the plaintiff.
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