Isiah Thomas claims that he believes the ‘Malice at the Palace’ would not have taken place if he was still coaching the Indiana Pacers.
The 2004 Indiana Pacers were a team that legitimately could contend for a championship. With the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly weakened due to a severe lack of chemistry between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, the title window for many teams was wide open. Isiah Thomas however, wasn’t given a chance to coach his Pacers as he was replaced by Rick Carlisle after the 2003 season.
Thankfully for the Pacers, Isiah Thomas was a much better coach than he was a GM when with the New York Knicks. This doesn’t mean that he was a great coach, but it just goes to show how horribly his stint with the Knicks went. He would lead Indiana to three straight Playoffs but would be bounced in the first round in each of those 3 postseasons.
Despite coaching a near 50 win team, he would be replaced by Rick Carlisle prior to the commencement of the 2003-04 season. Unfortunately for Carlisle, he would experience one of the worst things to happen in NBA history during his first year with the Pacers.
Isiah Thomas believes that he could’ve prevented the Malice at the Palace from taking place.
In a seemingly regular game that pitted the Pacers against the Pistons on their home floor, all hell broke loose when Ben Wallace was fouled hard when down in the paint. This led to an extremely violent scuffle that scaled the length of the floor. Both benches cleared out and just when it seemed like everything was going back to normal, a Pistons fan threw a drink at Ron Artest.
This caused Artest and eventually Stephen Jackson to enter the stands, in pursuit of the fan that threw the cup of liquid at him. The two beat up a couple fans before being dragged back into the tunnels by security. While talking about this moment, Isiah Thomas said:
“I was the coach 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.”
No Malice at the Palace with Isiah Thomas as head coach? @IsiahThomas thinks so.
— The NBS Sports Hour (@NBSSportsHour) August 16, 2021