Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Isiah Thomas is already making friends, retracts scholarship offer to recruit

I liked the Isiah Thomas hiring at Florida International University when I first heard about it. For starters, the guy has been in and around the NBA, either as a player, coach, or in the front office, since 1981. He is a hall of fame point guard with two rings, and his previous job was the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations. This does not exactly seem like the kind of guy that wants to hang around FIU for thirty years (which is probably a good thing).

While Thomas has been unsuccessful at just about every stop since his playing career ended, he is still Isiah Thomas.

How hard could it be for him to recruit at this level?

Think about it. The Sun Belt conference, which FIU plays in, is good (Western Kentucky was two points from making their second straight Sweet 16; in the last two seasons, Sun Belt teams have knocked off the likes of Kentucky, Alabama, Auburn, and USC) but is still thoroughly a mid-major (17th in the RPI in 2009).

Should it really be that difficult for Zeke to land a few high major recruits that fell through the cracks? I mean, its Isiah Thomas!! What point guard wouldn't want to play for him? Do you think that one year out of the NBA means he no longer has any contacts in the league?

FIU has not had a winning season since 1999-2000 (when they went all of 16-14), and I get the feeling what they are trying to do with this is to get the program back on its feet by hiring Thomas, who they hope will start winning immediately. And when he does and gets lured away by a bigger program, then they can go out and get a good coach who is, how shall I put this, more respectable.

Plus, he's coaching for free this year.

It looked so good on paper, but Thomas may be well on his way to blowing up this program as well (look at his wake - the CBA, the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks). Last week, Thomas retracted a scholarship offer to Chris Rozier, a Jacksonville, Florida, native who had committed to FIU's previous coaching staff.

Chris Rozier had his scholarhship offer withdrawn by Isiah Thomas.
(photo credit: Rivals)

To be fair, this goes the other way all the time (just look at how many players withdrew their commitments when John Calipari left Memphis). But as good as you are as a coach, being able to recruit might be the most important aspect. Landing local talent, especially when you are at a school like FIU that doesn't have the unlimited budget and the ability to recruit the entire country, and thus establishing relationships with the local high school coaches is probably the most important aspect of recruiting.

It doesn't seem as if Zeke is off to a great start with those Florida HS coaches. From Jacksonville.com:
Wolfson basketball coach Bruce Rosebrock was bothered by the way FIU handled Rozier's recruitment at the end.

"I think it could have been handled more professional, especially when you consider the people involved are supposed to be professionals," Rosebrock said. "I've gotten calls from several college coaches apologizing for the way that Chris was treated by FIU. They were apologizing for their profession."

A spokesman at FIU said Thomas was assembling his staff and was unavailable for comment.
Florida is a big state, and Jacksonville is a long way from Miami (345 miles away, it is akin to saying Jim Calhoun alienates local coaches if he spurns a player from a DC high school), but it is still in Florida. Word travels quickly through the coaching ranks, and establishing a bad relationship with one coach could be disastrous.

So will this turn out to be a poor decision by FIU?

Possibly. All Thomas needed to do was shake a few hands, land all the second tier talent in Florida (which there is a ton of), take FIU to a tournament or three, and he is off to some SEC school.

Two weeks into his tenure, and he already has an enemy at a Florida high school.

Nice work, Zeke.


Anonymous said...

I live in Jacksonvile Florida and I am a big basketball fan.

Here is some additional info: Thomas also burned bridges by dropping 2 other recruits in the state of Florida, one of them was already signed! This young man has a 4.3 GPA in high school. This looks really bad.

The Wolfson High School coach has been winning and developing quality talent. He had a quard sign with Marquette also! Sounds like a high school that a coach would want to be on good term with.

Three high schools, each in a different area of the state (Orlando/central FL area, Jacksonville/notheast FLarea, & Pensacola/northwest FL area).

That is quite a negative start.


deaconcb said...

I have seen all the hoopla surrounding Coach Thomas,for all that it is worth that's just the nature of the beast not that it is right or wrong but it is correct.I too have been affected by the decision making of coach Thomas,my son is Terrance Beasley from Pensacola High, now I don't know if there was any discussion with the out going coaches with regard to the incomming freshmen but to make a blind choice to have all Juco player that is probably not as good as the ones he rejected
Terrance has been rated in the top 50 at his position by espn,invited to the reebok allamerican camp in Philly has been a standout player on every team he has played on.
So Isaiah I wish you much sucess @ FIU but one thing I can say is that not honoring his scholarship that is your 1st bad choice.
But I do mean it much sucess.Oh if you all like to see what he gave away see youtube under his name.

Anonymous said...

So what are your son's plans now? Does Terrance have another college chosen yet?


Anonymous said...

We're currently looking at about ten other schools,maybe the sunbelt