In the wake of Friday’s firing of FIU men’s basketball coach Isiah Thomas and the entire staff, sophomore forward Dominique Ferguson and freshman center Joey De La Rosa, once prized FIU recruits, will be transferring from the school after this semester.
They’re two of five players who have asked to be released from their scholarships and, thus far, have been denied, a matter brought up in a letter from the team to FIU President Mark Rosenberg.
The “letter of support” from the team spends most of the time appealing to Rosenberg for more whys on the staff firing and expressing displeasure with the manner in which the firings were handled.
Part of the letter, emailed to The Miami Herald by graduating senior guard DeJuan Wright, says: “What is confusing is that if Coach Thomas was fired for losing games, he is not [the] only [one] at fault because we were the ones playing the games. He was given five years to fix an already existing problem, and then it was cut to three. The team he had coming in next year was young but by far his best class. Neither he nor we got the opportunity to finish what we started and have no explanation as to why our goal was cut short by this university.
“We also ask someone to look into why Coach Thomas and his staff had to be humiliated by being told they were fired and to pack their belongings immediately … with no explanation of what was going on in front of our team and other FIU staff members. It was quite embarrassing for us to witness and hurtful. They deserved a better way to leave …”
Much of the rest of the letter extolled the coaching staff’s emphasis on mentoring, personal and academic growth. On Monday, the players showed their displeasure by walking out of Monday’s FIU Athletic Awards Banquet as the men’s basketball portion of the program began.
Some players have appealed for their scholarship release and hope to have it by the end of the week.
De La Rosa, ranked No. 41 among 2011-12 freshman centers by ESPN before last season, said Thomas “was my guy. Loyalty was the key” before launching into an energetic account of how the staff rode the players about going to class.
Ferguson said: “I came here for Isiah Thomas. I turned down some good schools to play for Coach Thomas. When they fired him, it was like a slap in the face to me, too.”
FIU athletic director Pete Garcia hasn’t commented on the dismissals beyond Friday’s printed statement that the school wanted to “go in a different direction.”