MIAMI (CBSNewYork/CBSMiami/AP) – He was brought in to build the Florida International University men’s basketball team into a power. Instead, Isiah Thomas has been fired by FIU after a miserable 8-21 season.
Thomas took over the Panthers program after leaving the New York Knicks following a series of embarrassments that included the Eddy Curry saga and a sexual harassment lawsuit.
While at FIU, Thomas never won more than 11 games in a single season.
Thomas hasn’t issued a comment or statement.
“We want to thank Isiah Thomas for his three years here at FIU,” athletic director Pete Garcia said. “However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
Thomas remains close with the Knicks organization, especially owner James Dolan. Reports were that he played a role in bringing Carmelo Anthony to New York. Dolan has reportedly “has given up on the idea of hiring back Isiah Thomas in any capacity.”
Thomas signed a five-year deal with FIU, taking nothing in base salary for his first season and agreeing to a deal where he would receive nearly half of any gross revenues from ticket sales, commissions collected on food and beverage concessions and sponsorships.
But FIU never generated the buzz that both it and Thomas envisioned. The Panthers averaged 1,071 fans at home this season, nearly four times that many on the road.
“We just needed a break here or a break there, and it’s not happening for us,” Thomas said last month, shortly after FIU’s 8-21 season ended with a loss to eventual Sun Belt tournament champion Western Kentucky. “I know we’re getting there. We’ve had so many close games. If we keep working, good things will happen.”
A month later, FIU made the call to go another way. Garcia and Thomas met Friday morning, and the coach was told of the school’s decision.
Thomas helped the Detroit Pistons win two NBA championships as one of the all-time great point guards, then coached the Indiana Pacers before taking over in New York, where he found hard times both on and off the court — he endured legal and personal troubles off the court, and “Fire Isiah” chants were common at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks never won a playoff game in his tenure as president or coach, but he saw FIU as a chance to turn his fortunes around.
“I’ve had my ups and downs,” Thomas said when FIU hired him in 2009. “But don’t expect me to just stay down, because that’s not happening.”
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