Isiah Thomas in as Coach of Florida International
So Isiah Thomas has a job again. Not with the New York Knicks. Not in the NBA. Not even at his alma mater Indiana. Thomas and his basketball coaching career are headed for the sunny confines of South Florida, as reportedly, he has accepted the head coaching job at Florida International.
FIU certainly does not have much to lose. Their last coach, Sergio Rouco, was fired after 5 straight losing seasons. He had a combined record of 55-94 over those 5 years. Of course, it’s not as if he walked into a winning program either. FIU has not had a winning record since going 16-14 in 2000.
But if you are a school serious about growing your athletics program, as FIU is as evident by their successful football team, then why would they start off with a guy with so much baggage, and failure, on his resume?
Well, there are a couple of reasons:
First, name recognition. Say what you will about how sullied Thomas’s name is, but at least you recognize it and the face behind it. You wouldn’t know who Sergio Rouco was if he served you dinner. Heck, you probably don’t even remember me telling you that he was the head coach just 2 paragraphs ago. Name recognition can go a long way in college sports—no matter how good the coach is. Name recognition can get you into the door of a top recruit’s house. Name recognition can get you a highlight on SportsCenter—something for which I have never seen FIU Basketball do before. And name recognition can bring in money from alumni like you wouldn’t believe.
Secondly, Isiah has a connection with the current generation of parents. This kind of goes back to name recognition, but the fact that many of Isiah’s peers will be the very parents of the kids he is recruiting bodes well for him. These are the people who grew up watching Isiah Thomas play basketball, many of which feel that he is the best little man to have ever played the game. Despite all of Thomas’s wrong doings, many of these parents won’t be able to forget watching Isiah take on the Bulls, Celtics and other great teams of his era. And because of that, he might be able to snag a top recruit, or two, while at FIU.
Lastly, believe it or not, Isiah is not that bad of a basketball coach and talent evaluator. Granted, the Knicks looked sluggish and discombulated on offense at times, but that was mainly because Isiah never acquired the right pieces to put on the floor. But in college basketball, you don’t have to worry about salary caps and free agents, you go out and get the best players available to you no matter what. Recruiting is more like the NBA draft than say is free agency or trading for a player, because a draft, at the end of the day, is all about evaluating the best players, whereas trading and free agency has way too many contractual and fiduciary obligations. And if you look at Isiah’s resume, you’ll see he has drafted very well, acquiring players such as David Lee, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler and Tracy McGrady.
As for the coaching aspect, Isiah did okay during his tenure with the Indiana Pacers. Nothing special, but they were playoff contenders, and legitimate ones. If he can bring that same level of coaching to a mid-major like FIU, I’m sure he will be able to succeed. And as we have seen in the past, Isiah has no problem bringing down the hammer on his players, which is actually a better trait for a college coach than it is an NBA coach.
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