I’m sure most of the loyal readers to Rumors and Rants are aware of our heavy Indiana University slant (not quite as bad as the San Diego slant, blame McD and Phillips). But there’s a good reason for that. All four of us graduated from the esteemed university.
And while things at the school are currently great with the Hoosiers in their first bowl game since 1993 (though you need the NFL Network to catch the Insight Bowl) and the basketball team ranked No. 13 and led by future top-3 pick Eric Gordon and the best big man in the Big Ten D.J. White, not all is well with the alumni of IU (notice it’s Indiana University and not the University of Indiana. We’re touchy about this).
Two of the school’s accomplished athletes currently are among the laughing stock of pro sports. Not as athletes, but as coaches. Miami Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron is on the brink of history becoming the first winless team since the hapless 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New York Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas is just simply on the brink.
So it’s time to take up the arduous task of analyzing whose worse: Cam or Zeke.
- Cameron was a two-sport star in Bloomington and played for three of the most prominent coaches in school history: Lee Corso, Sam Wyche and some guy named Bobby Knight. A quarterback, he lettered in football for two seasons (1982-83) and basketball for an additional three (1981-83) before a knee injury cut short his playing career.
- Thomas is one of the most celebrated athletes in Indiana history. He was a two-time All-American and in 1981, as a sophomore, Zeke led the Hoosiers to the National Championship. After ’81 he bolted to the NBA, but guided IU to a 47-17 record in his two years on campus. In the NBA, Thomas turned in a Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Pistons and was the catalyst for the “Bad Boy” teams in the late ’80s, which won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990. One of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players, Zeke was inducted into the Natoinal Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.
Edge: Zeke. It’s a Will Smith slam dunk.
Biggest debacle pre-2002:
- Cameron returned to his alma mater in 1997 after stints as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and the Washington Redskins. Cameron, who popularized sweater vests well ahead of Jim Tressel, laid an egg upon his return to Bloomington. The Hoosiers were 18-37 in his five years at the helm despite the presence of an IU football legend (don’t laugh, we have two: Anthony Thompson and Antwaan Randle El). In his defense, Cameron was a missed extra point away (against Utah in 2001) from a winning record and a bowl appearance.
- Thomas purchased the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in 1998 in hopes of making it a true minor league system for the NBA. In March 2000, Thomas contacted the NBA about selling the CBA to them. The NBA countered with an $11 million offer and a percentage of future profits. Isiah refused, though he would’ve made $2 million in profit on the sale. The NBA then announced a plan to develop its own minor league, the NBA Developmental League, or D-League. Thomas was up shit’s creek. He tried to sell the CBA again to the NBA, who in turn refused. Within 18 months of his purchase of the league, the CBA was bankrupted and folded.
Edge: Zeke. Bye bye, Quad City Thunder and Fort Wayne Fury.
Biggest missed opportunity:
- Cameron coached at the University of Michigan from 1983-93 as a graduate assistant first, then as quarterbacks coach. Cameron was instrumental in shaping the Wolverines quarterbacks and receivers and got much of the credit for the successes of Jim Harbaugh, Elvis Grbac, Amani Toomer and Desmond Howard to name a few. After flaking out as IU’s head coach, he became offensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers and was credited with turning the Chargers offense into a juggernaut behind LaDanian Tomlinson and Drew Brees. Had Cameron stayed put in San Diego for one more year and not taken the Miami job, he would have been among the front runners for the vacant Michigan job. But a 0-13 record doesn’t exactly exude confidence.
- Despite being among the greatest players in history, Thomas never got the opportunity to win a gold medal like many of his contemporaries did. In 1980, Thomas was a member of the U.S. Olympic team but didn’t get a chance at winning gold because Jimmy Carter boycotted the Moscow Games. In 1992, Thomas was passed over for the Dream Team because of a long-standing feud with Michael Jordan.
Edge: Cam. What’s a gold medal these days?
Worse decision of 2007:
- Cameron and the Dolphins pretty much shocked everyone when they passed over Brady Quinn with the 9th pick of the NFL Draft. Instead, they chose Ted Ginn Jr. While Ginn possesses supernatural speed, the Dolphins most pressing need was undoubtedly under center. Quinn was a record-setting quarterback at Notre Dame and was not just the logical selection, but the only selection. Fans booed as well they should have. Ginn has 22 catches for for 326 yards this season, not terrible for a rookie receiver, but Quinn was the future of the franchise. Instead, they went with John Beck, a 26-year old rookie out of BYU, who has looked lost in his first three NFL starts (53.6 QB rating).
- A New York court ordered that Madison Square Garden, Thomas’ employer, pay Anucha Brown Sanders $11.6 million in a sexual harassment suit she brought against Thomas. Ouch! Thomas maintains his innocence stating his actions didn’t constitute harassment, but he did admit to calling Sanders “a bitch” (seems fair) and that he felt hugging and kissing co-workers was perfectly appropriate. I don’t think Zeke and Stephon Marbury are on kissing terms.
Edge: Cam. Picking Ginn will cost him his job, and Zeke doesn’t have to pay. James Dolan does. Anytime James Dolan loses money, everyone else wins.
Biggest on-field headache:
- Injuries have decimated the Dolphins. Ronnie Brown was having an outstanding year early on. I should know, I had him on my fantasy team. He was putting up LT-type numbers. Then he goes down in Week 7. Jesse Chatman filled in capably, but now he’s injured. Ricky Williams came back for all of six carries before suffering a season-ending injury. Sure every team has injuries, but when your quarterback situation is crap at best, a running game is the only possible hope for resuscitation. Unfortunately, the Dolphins have coded and they aren’t coming back.
- On Nov. 13, Stephon Marbury left the Knicks team in protest to Thomas’ decision not to start the guard. Marbury followed that up with this jewel: “Isiah has to start me. I’ve got so much shit on Isiah and he knows it. He thinks he can fuck me. But I’ll fuck him first. You have no idea what I know.” Hmm, maybe Isiah and Stephon are on kissing terms.
In the end, while both Cameron and Thomas have proven rather hopeless in 2007, the edge for the worst goes to Isiah narrowly 3-2.
But hey, we IU alums still love them. We only have so many others to choose from (MLB union czar Donald Fehr, Fox’s Joe Buck, CBS’ Dick Enberg, Sage Steele of ESPN’s First Take, Jeff Sagarin of the Sagarin Ratings, Mark Cuban, Subway’s Jared and of course, The Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors).