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Free At Last: Thomas Accepts Job at FIU

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 16:  Head coach Isiah Thomas of the New York Knicks directs play during the game against the New Jersey Nets on January 16, 2008 at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Knicks won 111-105.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Keith SchlosserAnalyst IApril 15, 2009

Isaiah Thomas can now put his tenure with the New York Knicks behind him. Thomas will now try his hand at coaching at the college level. He will take over as head coach of Florida International University, replacing Sergio Rouco.

The hiring has certainly gained national exposure for FIU, but Thomas can finally exhale a sigh of relief. Once the dust clears, Thomas can fade into the background and do his job.

The hiring of Thomas is definitely a win-win for both sides involved. FIU is a school in the Sun Belt conference, which consists of just six teams, most of which have minimal to no notoriety.

FIU has never been a school that lands the big recruits, and has sent just three of its alumni to the NBAClyde Corley, Carlos Arroyo, and Raja Bell. While Bell is one of the league’s better defensive players, Arroyo is now playing internationally, and after being drafted, Corley did not have a successful run in the NBA.

In addition to Thomas, FIU considered former Miami Heat players Ed Pinckney and Tim Hardaway.

Pinckney is a current Minnesota Timberwolves assistant, while Hardaway will more than likely be the next Heat player to have his number hung up in the rafters. However, neither had a leg up on Thomas.

Pinckney, undoubtedly, has less notoriety than the latter two, and Hardaway has been considered black-listed from basketball as a result of his ill-chosen remarks post-retirement.

Thomas was the No. 1 choice all along. Bringing him in as coach will entice more local prospectsespecially the guardsto commit to FIU.

While he has no college coaching experience, he brings Hall of Fame credentials, being the successful “floor general” for the Detroit Pistons of the 1980’s, leading the team’s championship runs,  and having carried two storied NBA franchises into the playoffs.

In reality, Thomas is certainly overqualified for a job like this, but frankly, it is a job he had no choice but to take. Thomas, however, is finally free from that prison otherwise known as the front office of the New York Knicks.

After replacing Thomas as President of Basketball Operations, Donnie Walsh held him hostage, having “reassigned” him as a scout for the organization. Even then, Thomas had a tough time keeping a low profile.

It was even reported that he was a victim of a drug overdose in October 2008, further lowering his creditability for a more serious position elsewhere.

While it is safe to say Thomas and his agent sought out offers over the past few months, none have really come to fruition, as his reputation has experienced an utter free fall.

FIU is a school with a tremendously low profile, of which Thomas is obviously in dire need.

FIU is, by no means, a final destination for Thomas, and one where he is not going to get comfortable. The school has suffered through five losing seasons and is hoping that the Hall of Famer can give them a boost, which will not even require any type of championship. All Thomas needs to do is keep his head above water and perhaps lead the team to a .500 record for a season or two.

Given his ability to lead the Indiana Pacers and the Knicks into the playoffs, that should not prove too difficult.

As much as he has faltered, Thomas can control his own destiny at FIU. They were extremely lucky to land a guy like Thomas and the school knows that.

His stay will be for as long as he wishes. However, once Thomas proves he can still coach, an offer from an NBA team (or at least a better college team) will certainly find its way to him. Thomas will then pounce on the offer, and should consider himself a very lucky and fortunate man.

Isaiah Thomas has certainly fallen from greatness. He has gone from a Hall of Fame point guard and playoff-winning coach to a failing executive accused of sexual harassment and a drug overdose.

His career has taken a hit for sure, but Thomas has now come out of it ready to revamp his career. He is ready to seize this rare opportunity and grab the bull by the horns.

Success is not guaranteed, but one thing is for certainif Thomas can turn some heads, his return to greatness will be just as quick as his fall from it.

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