Apr 9, 2012FIU Dismisses Isiah Thomas As Coach
Miami Herald, Barry Jackson & Michelle Kaufman
Former NBA star Isiah Thomas, the most ballyhooed coaching hire in Florida International University history, said he was “stunned” and “disappointed” when he learned Friday he was being fired after three years as the school’s men’s basketball coach.
Thomas said he had been under the impression he would have more time to turn around the program after guiding the Panthers to a 26-65 record in three seasons. FIU finished 8-21 this past season, after closing 7-25 and 11-19 in his first two years.
“I am very disappointed that I won’t get a chance to finish the job I set out to do when I got here, Thomas said when reached by phone. I was told I’d have five years to build FIU, and I felt I was well on my way to doing it … Nobody told me I’d have two or three years. I was told five years.
Thomas said he had a meeting with athletic director Pete Garcia last week, and Garcia expressed disappointment in the team’s performance, but Thomas was “very optimistic and excited” about the next two recruiting classes. He said he had “high hopes” that he would have FIU winning by year five.
Garcia called him in again Friday and told him he was being fired. At the time, Thomas was overseeing player workouts and interviewing assistant coaching candidate Mike Balado, formerly of FIU, UM and Miami-Dade Community College.
Thomas said his 2013 recruiting class had four of the top 50 players in the state, and his 2012 class has Chicago All-City players Milton Doyle, Tim Williams and Antoine Meyers.
“I know what we had coming in and in two years we would be loaded up and would have set the foundation for a strong future, Thomas said. It takes time to build a program and I just wish I could have had the opportunity to finish.”
Garcia declined to explain the decision, beyond a statement in which he thanked Thomas for his three years and added that “we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
The school said it will immediately begin a national search for his replacement.
Thomas must be paid the remaining two years of a five-year, $1.1 million deal. He did not accept a salary in his first season.
Asked what he plans to do next, Thomas said, I will sit back a couple days and think about everything. Then I’ll have to move on. I wasn’t prepared at all for this. I love Miami. I really enjoyed living here and getting involved in the community and local charity projects. I will miss it and plan to continue helping Miami charities in any way I can.