Commentary By Curtis Symonds Years ago, legendary Chicago columnist Mike Royko, who at the time had written a series of columns urging Illinois to raise its drinking age to 21, received a letter from an irate 19-year old which ended with an acerbic, "Anyway, what makes you such an expert?" Royko’s response, one of his finest moments as a writer, began with a qualifier that read something like: "Young lady, there are countless things about which I know absolutely nothing. There are many other things about which I know very little. But if there is one thing about which I qualify as an absolute authority, it is drinking." That’s how I felt last week when I read that Jim Dolan had renewed the contract of beleaguered New York Knick coach Isiah Thomas. I have been playing and coaching basketball my entire life and I, indeed, may be one of the few 50-something year old men you’ll ever meet still working on his crossover dribble. But on to my point: as you know, Cablevision owns the Knicks. And since the departure of the team’s president a few years back, Dolan has emerged as the face of the club’s ownership. As for Thomas… as general manager of the Knicks he has assembled a roster of unproductive, extraordinarily expensive players, many of whom are long past their expiration date. He’s also a guy whose one-time mismanagement of the Toronto Raptors could have doomed that franchise, much like its namesake, to extinction; and a guy who once purchased the Continental Basketball Association, which had operated for nearly 50 years, and within months drove it into bankruptcy. In fact, the team Thomas assembled for Dolan is so flawed, the man who guided it last season, Larry Brown—a coach whose ability to come into any situation and win immediately earned him a spot in the Hall of Fame—was fired after one year, while still being owed a reported $40 million. So when the miserable Knicks won a few games over the course of 10 days to climb into playoff contention, Thomas suddenly got a hefty contract extension. Now, I know you’re wondering; what does this have to do with cable? Besides, you say, this is stuff I could learn in the New York Post. Exactly my point. The NBA is a league in which millions get thrown in salaries around like so many nickels and dimes, and every barfly, every commuter, every junior high school kid from Bayonne to East Hampton knows how much the Knicks are spending. They also know where that money is coming from. It’s seen as subscription television money—money Cablevision pockets every time someone writes a check for Optimum TV or HBO. And every time Dolan is seen throwing more good money at bad, it reflects all the way back to those cable bills that come every month, all the way back to those rate increases that seem to pop up every year, and all the way back to those trucks that roll up and down the streets of Long Island and Westchester. Look, I like Jim Dolan, and I like Cablevision. I think they’ve both been good for cable. But I also think it’s time he hired someone to run the Knicks. It’s time to distance himself from the millions in cable money being spent on NBA salaries; time to make it harder for New Yorkers to connect the dots. And if you think Cablevision would only benefit in the public relations arena, think again. In 1987, after meddling in player decisions of his Atlanta Braves and helping turn them into a laughing stock, another cable exec, Ted Turner, finally got frustrated and let his baseball people start calling the shots. Symonds says let me remind you: that was 20 years and 15 pennants ago. Curtis Symonds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.