You have to give Isiah Thomas credit; the man is really convinced that he’s just around the corner from winning forever even when things are at their absolute worst. And they have been bad for a while now.
Thomas, if you didn’t already know, was fired from his head coaching job at Florida International University on Friday. The Panthers were 26-65 in Thomas’s three years as coach.
ESPN’s Dana O’Neil would have you believe this was a con-job on college basketball from the start. I disagree. This was a fraud long before Thomas made his way to Miami. It was a fraud when he was hired to run the brand new Toronto Raptors, who were under .500 all four years he was in charge.
It was a fraud when he screwed the CBA so he could be the head coach of the Pacers. It was still a fraud when he made the playoffs with all of his Pacers teams since, according to Thomas, he was fired by Larry Bird because Bird was “closer to Rick Carlisle.” We all know his entire tenure with the Knicks was a fraud from which the organization is only now recovering. And then you have his time at FIU.
In Thomas’s defense, the Raptors did become a good team with many of the players he brought in. It just happened to be after he was let go. And whatever you want to say about his situation in Indianapolis, at least his teams made the playoffs.
But for one of the best point guards in history, whose decision-making on the court was almost always dead-on, Thomas’s decisions post-Pacers are the reason he is universally regarded as an incompetent dilettante.
Working for the Knicks is always a terrible idea. As long as James Dolan owns that team, there’s no way it will ever be a functional situation. It’s just not possible. So whatever decisions he made in the front office or as the coach, while awful, were just enhancing the level of terribleness. And thinking he could turn FIU around when they were never built to succeed from the top down was just dumb.
Thomas really seems to believe that the force of his personality and basketball acumen alone can fix any problem and turn the worst franchise into a winner when there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Maybe he should try to do what he did with the Pacers and find a situation that is already conducive to success instead of talking crap like, “I know we’re getting there. We’ve had so many close games. If we keep working, good things will happen.”
No, they won’t. They went 8-21 in 2011-2012. Florida International will never, ever be a basketball power. Basketball powers don’t average just over 1,000 fans per game. That’s about the only thing Thomas’s tenure at the school managed to prove.
Yes, Indiana, Thomas’s alma mater, went from a similar record to the NCAA tournament in just one year, but Indiana has several advantages Thomas seems to not understand: a coach who possibly never sleeps in Tom Crean and the existence of history. Indiana was down because of its own fraud perpetrated by a former coach, not because they had never been a basketball powerhouse before. They also sold out virtually all their games while they were at their worst.
If this were professional wrestling, Isiah Thomas would have turned heel long ago and started talking about “you people” being the reason he was suddenly sucking every time he was in front of a crowd. Instead, he seems to just be happily jumping from one failure to another, utterly confident that this next opportunity will be the one where he turns it all around. He’s a sports version of the gambling degenerates on Luck, who made the big score in the first episode, but kept chasing another anyway because that’s all they really knew. That show was also canceled because it caused the death of several horses along the way.
That’s the worst part though, because you know he could fall into some other gig and end up succeeding, thus validating all his other disasters. I really don’t know if that’s something anyone should want to happen at this point.