One of the best point guards in NBA history continues to see a tremendous lack of success in his post-playing days. Isiah Thomas, who had a brief stretch of coaching and management in the NBA, saw his three-year stint as head coach of the Florida International Panthers come to an end on Friday.
Thomas, who had two years left on his contract, says he was ‘stunned’ by the unexpected move.
"This is the most surprising thing that has happened to me in basketball," Thomas said. "I never been fired before for basketball reasons. This is the first time.
"When I was in Toronto, I was trying to buy a team and I left. When I was in Indiana, Larry Bird told me that he liked what I was doing but he was closer to Rick Carlisle. The whole thing in New York was crazy. This is the first time someone told me that I was being fired for basketball reasons."
Thomas’ FIU teams went 26-65 in his three years as head coach, not great for a Panthers team that was already far from being a perennial power before his arrival. The school’s last winning campaign was during the 1999-2000 season, and their winning percentage has sat at .315 since, which is 329th out of 344 Division I men’s teams.
Thomas, who was holding workouts with the team on Friday, said he told FIU director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia he should have at least been given five years to see his core recruiting class through. Thomas said he was recruiting exceptionally well in Florida, Chicago and Indiana and was close to turning the program around.
"We have a solid group of freshmen and sophomores," Thomas said. "They fired the whole staff. There is no one left. I feel bad for the kids. They are asking questions about what they should do. I'm trying to help but there is no one left here from our staff. I'm just stunned."
The decision by FIU was announced formally in a statement on Friday. "We want to thank Isiah Thomas for his three years here at FIU," Garcia said. "However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction."
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