COMMENTARY: Time for program to start fresh

Rico Albarracin/ Asst. Sports Director

There is one thing that the basketball program needed: A fresh start.

Rico Albarracin/ Asst. Sports Dircetor

There should not be a surprise that comes from the sudden release of Isiah Thomas. A coach who has had a losing record in all three seasons at the University. A coach who had one eye on his duties at FIU while having a wandering eye on the NBA.

No, the firing is not surprising. Yet whatever direction Pete Garcia, Executive Director of Sports and Entertainment, decides to go with in the hiring of his next head coach could be telling of what to expect for years to come.

Thomas is a likable figure. He is fun to talk to. He can grab anyone’s attention when he walks into a room.

His players have the utmost respect for him as a person and a mentor. With that said, I was a strong advocate that Thomas’ stint here at the University was not working. Whether it was at the hands of Garcia or by his own will, Thomas’ days were numbered.

Thomas mentioned he was “fully committed to building the program here.” The problem with that statement is that it is false. In August 2010, Thomas accepted a consultant role for the New York Knicks while still being the coach at the University. The only reason he could not continue was because it violated NBA bylaws.

That’s not a full commitment. That’s a cliche that a person says to ears who want to be deceived. Thomas loved the NBA. He wanted back in any way possible. He saw an opportunity and took it. That does not make him a bad guy. He strives for excellence. But striving for something doesn’t make you good at it.

Even before Thomas arrived at FIU, he led an Indiana Pacers team from being a title contender to a talented-yet-middle-of-the-pack ball club. Although an aging squad may not have been his fault, Larry Bird, the president of basketball operations for the Pacers, let him go.

Then the New York Knicks came calling.

When he became coach, Thomas posted an overall winning percentage of .341 as head coach, fifth lowest in Knicks history. Just add the three seasons at FIU and the numbers equal one thing; Thomas is not a good coach.

There is no doubt that Thomas is captivating. In any room that he stands in, the focus immediately goes to him. His smile is infectious. There is passion that burns inside of him. Even standing amongst superstars such as Lebron James and Dwyane Wade during the star-filled “South Florida Classic” basketball charity game held at U.S. Century Bank Arena, Thomas had everyone’s attention whenever he spoke.

With such a hold that he can have over people, there are not many people who can be better at the recruiting game for FIU. That does not mean he could get the X’s and O’s down.

This is the chance for the athletics department to get it right. The basketball program at the University has suffered enough. Garcia must look for someone who is qualified and competent. It should not matter whether he brings media attention or name-prestige. What should matter is what happens on the court and finding someone who can dictate the game from the bench.

So now it is in Garcia’s hands. Seek out quality over a big name. Hard work over the spotlight. Someone who is devoted to finding ways to win games in the film room over someone who just basks in the glory of their own name.

If Garcia looks for the right coach, the wins will come. Wins will bring in the crowd and the media attention.

In a positive way.

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