Isiah Thomas: He’s Just Not That Into [FI]U

If James Dolan or Pete Garcia were female, Isiah Thomas may not have seen his last sexual harassment lawsuit. Fortunately for Thomas, these men are in position to enable him to return to the NBA in an executive capacity, all the while continuing to be employed as a coach for a NCAA Division I school.

Thomas has impressively maneuvered his way into this position despite the following items on his recent resume:

  • April 2008 – Fired from the New York Knicks after one of the worst executive tenures since Thomas himself ran the CBA out of existence.
  • October 2008 – Having overdosed on sleeping pills, Thomas attempted to deflect attention by claiming the person revived and taken to the hospital was his daughter.
  • April 2009 – Hired as FIU Coach.
  • February 2010 – Publicly leaked interest in role with the Los Angeles Clippers.
  • March 2010 – FIU’s record of 7-25 placed it last in the Sun Belt Conference.
  • July 2010 – New York Knicks hired Thomas to sway Lebron James. James declined to speak with Thomas.

What will likely develop in the next few weeks is that the NBA will determine that Thomas’ dual role would violate boundaries it establishes between itself and the college game. At that point, Thomas will take a full-time position with the Knicks, pushing Donnie Walsh out the door. [If this doesn’t happen, the Thomas hire officially becomes weirder than the Fredi Gonzalez firing]. At that time, FIU will name a coach which it is now scrambling to recruit, even as Pete Garcia claims to be fine with the current situation.

In the meantime, FIU will tolerate what seemingly few other Division I schools would tolerate, a coach who clearly is not committed to his job. New York Knick fans will ask why and the answer will come in the person James Dolan. But for those of us in Miami, for whom FIU is not some afterthought or stepping stone, the why is a much more interesting question.

I did not think FIU was in a desperate situation when it hired Thomas or is in a desperate situation now, where the situation clearly calls for FIU to thank [yada yada] Thomas, but decline to be his fall back position. In Miami, FIU has the luxury of anonymity to get things right. Garcia and FIU are taking advantage of that time with Mario Cristobal and their football program.

That’s why I referred to Thomas as the anti-Cristobal when they hired him. The Cristobal and Thomas hires, both by Pete Garcia, must be in the running for the most philosophically divergent hires by the same Athletic Director ever. I am a fan of the Cristobal way. Isiah Thomas represents much of what I dislike about sports. So why the two approaches?

To me, it clearly is all about the U. Garcia made a name for himself at the University of Miami. He is approaching his fourth year at FIU without upstaging the U in any of the major sports. Itching to make an impact, Garcia took a gamble with Thomas. It failed. [Who knows, maybe one of the top recruits will stay even when Thomas leaves]. But now, Thomas’ constant maneuverings has made it an unforgettably bad move and Garcia appears to have all the backbone of an Obama Justice Dept official sent to investigate Black, as opposed to Golden, Panthers. Garcia partially gambled FIU’s good name on basketball bling. Let’s hope Garcia doesn’t think the risk was worth it and his next hire is more Cristobal and less Thomas.

Please leave for New York soon, Mr. Thomas, and if it’s not too much trouble, please take Loria and Samson with you.

About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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