By Igor Mello/Sports Director
Isiah Thomas has been relieved of his duties as coach of the FIU men’s basketball team. Athletic Director Pete Garcia announced on April 6 that Thomas was no longer part of their future at the university.
An emotional Thomas sat outside the FIU basketball facility handing hugs to his former players. Thomas informed his players and staff that he would no longer be part of the program.
“We want to thank [Isiah] Thomas for his three years here at FIU,” Garcia said. “However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
Thomas had Chicago prospect Milton Doyle, as well as other recruits visiting the campus when he was informed of his firing.
“This isn’t what we were expecting today,” Thomas said to Student Media immediately after he was let go. “We had a nice group of kids working in our gym today and our coaches were pretty excited about the foundation we had laid here,” Thomas said. “Four out of the top 50 players in the state of Florida had already given us verbal commitments, so I’m not sure [what the decision was]. We’re all kind of stunned.”
Thomas, a hall of fame point guard, signed a five-year deal worth $1.4 million in 2009 in which he donated his first year’s salary. He was 26-65 during his three seasons at FIU, including 7-25 in his first season as head coach.
“I was fully committed to building the program here. I came here with every intention of building the program. They gave me five years to do it. The first year they said it didn’t count. I even gave back my salary for the first year. So really I’ve been here two years. I’ve had two recruiting classes and this would’ve been my third year coming up and we were poised to do good things,” Thomas said.
Rumors continually circulated about his future in the NBA while at FIU. Despite accepting a job as a consultant for the New York Knicks in 2010, which violated NBA by-laws, Thomas reneged and stayed at FIU at the time. But now with the free time, Thomas has decided to take a break from any coaching duties.
“I’m going to take some time off and kind of digest what has just happened here,” Thomas said.
With Thomas out as head coach, so may a few of his former and current players at FIU. Sophomore Dominique Ferguson, who was recruited by Thomas as early as 2009, used his social media account to vent his frustration.
“[I] Came here to play for one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met and now these people let him go. I hope I can get my release now,” said Ferguson on his Twitter account. “As much stuff as he’s done for this school for FIU to do him like this, he’s done much more things that have changed our lives us as men.”