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New York Knicks Coach Isiah Thomas and a former team executive who claims he subjected her to unwanted sexual advances appeared in federal court yesterday as jury selection began in her $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit. Thomas and his accuser, Anucha Browne Sanders, sat stoically within a few feet of each other, both flanked by teams of lawyers. Thomas, also the Knicks' president and considered one of the best players in NBA history, stood and smiled as the judge introduced him to the scores of potential jurors sitting in the gallery.

The jury pool was asked to fill out a lengthy questionnaire. One of the questions: "Do you regularly follow professional basketball or consider yourself a fan?"

U.S. District Judge Gerard Lynch also read aloud a list of names of possible witnesses, including Knicks players Stephon Marbury and Malik Rose.

During individual questioning, the judge dismissed one prospective juror, a coffee trader, after the man revealed his anguish over being fired from a job based on a co-worker's claim of inappropriate touching.

A maintenance man and Knicks fan was kept in the pool despite suggesting that game tickets were overpriced and that Thomas's track record as coach was poor. "I can speak freely? The team's not doing too well," he said as Thomas listened nearby.

Eight jurors were to be picked for a trial expected to last three weeks, meaning a verdict could come just before the Knicks open training camp.

Browne Sanders, a former Northwestern basketball star and married mother of three, wants reinstatement to her job as senior vice president of marketing and business operations. She's also seeking hefty damages after spending five years with the storied franchise.

The plaintiff contends she was fired in January 2006 "for telling the truth" while going through internal channels to stop the harassment by Thomas. Madison Square Garden, which owns the team, insisted her dismissal was because she "failed to fulfill professional responsibilities."


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