Self-Censorship and the FIU Basketball Coach

There is something very strange going on with the local newspaper reporting about Isiah Thomas. Yesterday there was a nice profile of Isiah Thomas in the Palm Beach Post and I had read earlier ones in the Miami Herald.

Those articles disclosed that Thomas was fired from the New York Knicks and that there was a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the franchise due to his actions. In the articles, the tone of Thomas’s comments about his ‘disgraced stint’ with the Knicks [you don’t want to know about the CBA] was matter of fact, ‘hey, it just didn’t work out, trial was a pain, stuff happens’ etc. Unless Thomas has picked up Jedi-mind skills, how could any reference to what happened to Thomas in New York completely avoid the pink elephant? Here is what Thomas avoided or they did not print, at least in these recent articles; One year ago Isiah Thomas overdosed on sleeping pills and then attempted to cover it up by blaming it on his daughter.

His efforts to divert attention [lying] might have been successful, but unfortunately for Thomas, the local police chief was not on board. This from a NY Times article last October:

Isiah Thomas, the former Knicks president and head coach, was taken from his Westchester County home by ambulance and hospitalized early Friday morning after he overdosed on sleeping pills.After a day of conflicting reports about the nature of the incident and who was hospitalized, a person directly involved in the investigation confirmed that it was Thomas. Thomas was released from the hospital later in the day and was reported to be fine.

Emergency personnel and police officers, responding to a 911 call, said they found a 47-year-old man unconscious at Thomas’s home in Purchase, N.Y. Although the authorities withheld the man’s name, Thomas is 47.

At least two earlier news reports indicated that Thomas was not involved, causing confusion. Thomas, in a brief cellphone interview with The New York Post, said it was his teenage daughter, Lauren, who was in distress. Thomas denied that anything had happened to him. His son, Joshua, gave a similar account, telling The Daily News that his sister has hypoglycemia, which is caused by low glucose in the bloodstream.

“Reports of sleeping pills are false,” Joshua Thomas told The Daily News. Referring to his father, he added: “He looked faint from stressing over her. They sat him down, let him drink some water. He’s fine.”

Reached Friday evening, Harrison Police Chief David Hall confirmed that a 47-year-old male had been taken from Thomas’s home. He refuted claims that the incident involved Thomas’s daughter.

“I understand that this person claims it was his daughter; he is lying,” Hall said. “It was definitely not his daughter, it was a male. We know the difference between a 47-year-old black male and a young black female.”

Hall said that the man was unconscious when officers arrived at the home shortly after midnight.

“We administered oxygen and we loaded him into an ambulance,” Hall said. “He was unconscious, but breathing. So we are calling this an accidental overdose of a prescription sleeping pill.”

Hall added, “We aren’t mind readers, so we don’t know why he did it, but there was nothing to indicate a suicide, no notes left.”

Hall said that a prescription bottle was handed over to officers, who gave it to ambulance personnel, who then handed it over to doctors at White Plains Hospital Center.

That’s part of the reason why when FIU hired Thomas, I thought of him as the anti-Cristobal selection. Nothing about Thomas’s past behavior and string of failures suggested he would be a good fit for a college program attempting to establish itself, other than his name recognition.

Which is what the Thomas experiment at FIU proves. Since recruiting is the key to successful college programs, having a ‘name’ more than makes up for any other deficiencies a coach may have. So the next time someone is dismissed or not considered for a job based on any sort of character, role model or leadership [yada yada] qualifications, we know that is just the politically correct thing to say. They need to win and in order to win they need to recruit. I think it’s true at most colleges, but rarely are the factors so blatant as they were in FIU’s Athletic Director Pete Garcia’s decision to hire Thomas. In terms of proving that point, the FIU hire of Thomas provides a Zapruder-film-like finality to that argument.

By hiring Thomas, I thought FIU acted with desperation when I didn’t think they were in a desperate spot. But perhaps I’m just not familiar with the sort of pressures, internal or external, Garcia is under to turn things around. So far it seems to be working as hoped given that FIU has signed some highly touted players it would normally not have been able to compete for. As an FIU grad, I hope it does work out. But from what I know about Thomas, that represents the triumph of hope over experience. Anyways, it will be interesting to watch how successful Isiah Thomas and FIU are in getting the local media to avoid the pink elephant in the gym.

The New York Times article referenced is copied in full at end of post.

—————————————————————————-
Overdose of Pills Puts Isiah Thomas in Hospital
By HOWARD BECK and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT

October 25, 2008

Isiah Thomas, the former Knicks president and head coach, was taken from his Westchester County home by ambulance and hospitalized early Friday morning after he overdosed on sleeping pills.

After a day of conflicting reports about the nature of the incident and who was hospitalized, a person directly involved in the investigation confirmed that it was Thomas. Thomas was released from the hospital later in the day and was reported to be fine.

Emergency personnel and police officers, responding to a 911 call, said they found a 47-year-old man unconscious at Thomas’s home in Purchase, N.Y. Although the authorities withheld the man’s name, Thomas is 47.

At least two earlier news reports indicated that Thomas was not involved, causing confusion. Thomas, in a brief cellphone interview with The New York Post, said it was his teenage daughter, Lauren, who was in distress. Thomas denied that anything had happened to him. His son, Joshua, gave a similar account, telling The Daily News that his sister has hypoglycemia, which is caused by low glucose in the bloodstream.

“Reports of sleeping pills are false,” Joshua Thomas told The Daily News. Referring to his father, he added: “He looked faint from stressing over her. They sat him down, let him drink some water. He’s fine.”

Reached Friday evening, Harrison Police Chief David Hall confirmed that a 47-year-old male had been taken from Thomas’s home. He refuted claims that the incident involved Thomas’s daughter.

“I understand that this person claims it was his daughter; he is lying,” Hall said. “It was definitely not his daughter, it was a male. We know the difference between a 47-year-old black male and a young black female.”

Hall said that the man was unconscious when officers arrived at the home shortly after midnight.

“We administered oxygen and we loaded him into an ambulance,” Hall said. “He was unconscious, but breathing. So we are calling this an accidental overdose of a prescription sleeping pill.”

Hall added, “We aren’t mind readers, so we don’t know why he did it, but there was nothing to indicate a suicide, no notes left.”

Hall said that a prescription bottle was handed over to officers, who gave it to ambulance personnel, who then handed it over to doctors at White Plains Hospital Center.

Thomas, who was hired as the Knicks’ president in December 2003, presided over one of the worst eras in franchise history — a four-and-a-half-year run in which the team cycled through five head coaches (including Thomas) and dozens of players, but never reached .500 despite a league-high payroll.

The Knicks went 23-59 last season, reaching a series of low points on and off the court. Thomas feuded with point guard Stephon Marbury and frequently benched center Eddy Curry, both of whom were acquired by Thomas and portrayed as franchise cornerstones.

In addition, Thomas and his employer, Madison Square Garden, were found liable for sexual harassment last October, with a jury finding in favor of a former team executive and awarding her $11.6 million in punitive damages.

In April, the Garden’s chairman, James L. Dolan, removed Thomas as team president, replacing him with Donnie Walsh. A few weeks later, Walsh removed Thomas as coach. But the team kept Thomas on the payroll, with no title, no authority and no office. He is an infrequent visitor to the team’s headquarters in Greenburgh, N.Y. Walsh said he uses Thomas as a consultant. In the spring, he dispatched Thomas to Italy to scout Danilo Gallinari, whom the Knicks later selected with the sixth pick in the June draft.

The Knicks released a statement Friday evening, but it provided little clarity.

“Isiah Thomas spoke with members of the New York Knicks’ organization and is O.K.,” the team said in the statement. “He is dealing with a family matter and we will have no further comment. He has asked that we respect his privacy and we will.”

As the Knicks prepared to play the Nets in their final preseason game Friday at Madison Square Garden, Thomas’s former players expressed concern for his well being.

Walsh said he had not seen Thomas since just before training camp opened in late September.

“I didn’t talk to him, but people in the franchise have spoken to him,” Walsh said.

Brendan Suhr, a longtime friend and former Knicks official under Thomas, said in a telephone interview that he was confident Thomas had not attempted to harm himself.

“He’s in a great frame of mind,” said Suhr, who said he spoke with Thomas earlier in the week. “That’s why I say that with such confidence.”

Suhr said that Thomas was in great shape, both mentally and physically, after taking time off.

“He is not depressed; he is not down,” Suhr said. “He is just the opposite. He’s a very upbeat guy.”

None of the Knicks players said they had talked with Thomas since training camp began.

“He seemed fine, it was good to see him,” said Jamal Crawford, who said he saw Thomas in early October. “I don’t know enough about it to really comment, but I just hope he’s doing well.”

While expressing concern over Thomas’s situation, Mike D’Antoni, the Knicks’ new coach, said he had little contact with Thomas in the last few months.

“I just feel bad about it like everybody else, but I have no knowledge about it,” D’Antoni said.

Jonathan Abrams contributed reporting.
———————————————————————

Advertisements

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
This entry was posted in Sports and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s