I wanted to say a little something on the Isiah Thomas (or should I say Isiah Thompson?) hiring at Florida International. Because on one hand, Thomas really is one of the biggest failures in the history of sports (other than his playing days, of course, which were remarkably successful). While he is correctly recognized as probably the worst General Manager in the history of the NBA, he also was a terrible coach. Even his days with the Pacers are overrated, because he could not take a very talented team past the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. The first year after Thomas left, the team went to the Eastern Conference Finals, and the next season they made it all the way to the NBA Finals. And I won't even get into his disastrous tenure atop the CBA.
But with all that said, I think it's a great hire for FIU, and I agree with most of this article from Fox Sports. The fact is that they play at such a low level that even Thomas won't really get too badly out-coached. And if there's one thing Thomas can do it's evaluate talent. Even with the New York Knicks his draft picks were pretty successful. And when you throw in a school in a a fun part of Miami, with great weather and what is an Athletic Department clearly ready to invest some money in building a basketball program, that's got to help. And then throw in the Isiah Thomas name... he's got to get some pretty good recruits, right? Remember, the Sun Belt is a quality conference. This isn't like he's going to the MEAC or the Northeast Conference. You can get good kids to come to the Sun Belt.
Also, I think that college basketball might help with the key cause (in my opinion) of Thomas's coaching failures, which is his incessant need to be everybody's friend. He was so afraid of hurting anybody's feelings that he was utterly incapable of being a disciplinarian in any way. He wouldn't bench players that needed to be benched because he was afraid that they'd like him less. Look around the NBA, because you won't see a single successful head coach who doesn't do a good job of keeping a professional distance from their players. If Thomas is ever going to be able to grow up and act like a real head coach (unless he plans on coaching High School or AAU ball) then it will come with a bunch of 18 year old kids in the Sun Belt Conference.
And besides, what did FIU have to lose? It's not like they had any chance of competing near the top of the Sun Belt before 2012 without Thomas. This isn't a school that has had a ton of success. I wouldn't recommend a BCS conference team take a chance with Thomas, but it's a good move for a school like FIU.
One other brief bit of news I wanted to talk about is Alex Tyus, who is transferring out of Florida. I really don't know what's going on in Florida right now, but they're having a ton of trouble keeping kids around. Several kids have now transferred out recently, and there is decent possibility of Nick Calathes going pro a bit earlier than most people would have expected (he's projected to go around 30th-40th overall in the Draft). Whatever the reasons, it's clear that Florida now has major problems next season. If both Tyus and Calathes go then it's hard to see Florida making the Tournament at all. I have them as a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament right now, but that was assuming that Tyus and Calathes both came back. The loss of Tyus immediately drops them to something like an 8-10 seed, and if Calathes goes pro then they'll likely drop out of the Tournament altogether. Florida is going to be very thin and very young next season. If they can stop the exodus of players then they'll be very good in 2010-11, when all of their young talent will have an extra year of seasoning. They'll also have yet another top recruiting class coming in (they've already locked up Rivals.com's 59th rated 2010 recruit, Patric Young - a 6'8" power forward). But things are suddenly looking pretty bleak for the 2009-10 season.