NEW YORK (AP) -New York Knicks fans angry over the team's losing streak rallied outside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, holding aloft a giant pink slip and calling on management to fire coach Isiah Thomas.
Chanting ``Fire Isiah! He's got to go! Good-bye!'' two dozen irate fans signed the 8-by-4-foot pink placard urging Garden chief executive James Dolan to dump the coach, whose team is 7-17 going into Wednesday night's game with Cleveland.
Among the protesters was noted civil rights lawyer and longtime Knicks fan Norman Siegel, who criticized Knicks management for ordering a fan with a ``Fire Isiah'' sign to leave his seat at a game Monday night.
``The Knicks are trampling on what New York is all about - we're outspoken and we're zany at times,'' said Siegel. ``But principles and values of free speech should be adopted. The Garden should rethink its policy.''
Thomas has been hounded by bad publicity and calls from fans to quit since October, when fired team executive Anucha Browne Sanders won a sexual harassment lawsuit against the coach and the Garden. Just before the case was to return to court to decide compensatory damages, the lawsuit was settled for $11.5 million.
More calls for Thomas to step down were expected at Wednesday's game, with unhappy fans getting some help from one of the city's tabloids. The Daily News printed a large block letter sign in Wednesday's editions reading ``FIRE ISIAH,'' saying it was meant to be held up during the ``next Knicks blowout.''
Toward the end of Monday's 119-92 loss to the Indiana Pacers, a disgruntled fan raised a ``Fire Isiah'' sign and was ordered to leave his seat by a Garden security guard. After the images were captured by news photographers and published in Tuesday's papers, the fan, Jason Silverstein, came forward to identify himself.
``The guy is killing our team,'' the 23-year-old Manhattan real estate agent told The New York Times. ``How many 25-point beatings can we take?''
At Wednesday's rally, signs read ``Dump Isiah'' and ``Restore Knicks Pride.''
Thomas ``is completely inept, he's a disaster,'' said protester Scott Francies. ``He picked the players. And now, he's blaming them and destroying them. ... What kind of a person is this to represent this glorious city?''
The team has endured a barrage of bad publicity since October, when a jury ruled in favor of Browne Sanders in her sexual harassment lawsuit.
The three-week trial was rife with accounts of crude language and sexual escapades behind the scenes of a storied franchise.
The verdict spared Thomas himself from paying any damages, but amounted to another blemish on the resume of a two-time NBA champion whose post-playing career has been marked by one failure after another.
The Knicks haven't won a playoff game since Thomas joined the team in 2003, and the franchise has wasted millions of dollars this decade on a series of free-agent busts.
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