NEW YORK – One day after a fired New York Knicks executive claimed that her boss, team president and coach Isiah Thomas, had disparaged the team's white fans during meetings and conversations, the team's star guard took the stand and said the sexual harassment suit against Thomas was absurd and downplayed the sordid tale of his own encounter with a drunken intern.
Stephon Marbury testified one day after Anucha Browne Sanders said on the stand that Thomas would blow up any time she tried to recruit him or his players for marketing campaigns.
"Bitch, I'm here to win basketball games," Browne Sanders quoted Thomas as saying in the workplace.
In another discussion about season ticket holders, she claimed Thomas said, "Bitch, I don't give a f*** about these white people."
An attorney for Thomas, Sue Ellen Eisenberg, called the allegations "unfounded and outrageous."
Browne Sanders, who filed a $10 million sexual harassment lawsuit against Thomas, testified Tuesday that the NBA legend repeatedly called her derogatory names in private conversations before abruptly switching gears and professing his love.
Her testimony came on the first day of the closely watched civil trial in federal court in Manhattan. It followed opening statements in which another attorney for Thomas sought to portray the plaintiff as a liar who made up charges to deflect attention from her incompetence.
Thomas "emphatically denies he ever used those words to or about Ms. Browne Sanders," said the lawyer, Kathleen Bogas.
Bogas described Browne Sanders, a 44-year-old former Northwestern basketball star, as a physically imposing woman who was savvy enough to navigate the trash-talking world of professional basketball.
"She's a tall woman -- with heels on, taller than Isiah Thomas," Bogas said.
Browne Sanders is seeking reinstatement to her job as senior vice present of marketing and business operations. She also has demanded hefty damages after spending five years with the storied franchise.
The plaintiff contends that despite being showered with rave performance reviews and raises for most of her tenure, the Knicks fired her from her "dream job" in January 2006 in retaliation for daring to hire a lawyer and pursue sexual harassment allegations against Thomas.
Browne Sanders testified that when she reported Thomas' sexist tirades to Steve Mills, the team's chief operating officer, he told her to "accommodate him." Later, following a Knicks victory at Madison Square Garden, she said, Thomas surprised the married mother of three inside the arena by throwing his arm around her and sweet-talking her.
"I figured out why we have problems," he said, according to Browne Sanders. "It's because we're so alike. I'm in love with you."
She decided to "laugh it off," she said. "I wanted to get out of there as fast as I could."
On Wednesday, Marbury said that after he hear about the lawsuit, "I laughed. It was more of a joke than anything."
Marbury admitted he once called Browne Sanders a "bitch" during a phone conversation with another team employee, though he insisted, "I didn't have a reason not to like her."
Taking the witness stand earlier, Browne Sanders wept while telling the jury of five women and three men that Marbury and his cousins, also Madison Square Garden employees, were part of the problem.
The plaintiff cited a conversation with an MSG intern who confided that she was having a relationship with one of the cousins and had gotten drunk on an outing to a Manhattan strip club in April 2005 which included Marbury. The intern claimed that afterward Marbury lured her into his vehicle for sex, Browne Sanders said.
"She said she basically did whatever he asked her to do, and she considered it to be consensual because she got in the car," Browne Sanders testified.
When he took the stand, Marbury admitted pulling up and asking the intern, "Are you going to get in the truck?' " He said she answered, "Yes."
U.S. district judge Gerard E. Lynch cut off any more questioning on the encounter, saying more details wouldn't help the jury decide the case.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.