Isiah Thomas to FIU: A Head-Scratching Hire To Say the Least

Michael TiedemannCorrespondent IApril 15, 2009

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)

Is this really happening? This can't be true. Seriously.

We're in a day and age where people are scrambling for employment. In fact, the unemployment rate may reach 10 percent if it hasn't already by the time I finish typing this.

And despite all of this, Isiah Thomas found another job. That makes me laugh a little and at the same time cringe.

Is Florida International aware who Thomas is? And before you look at your computer screen like you just smelled something foul, yes, I know that FIU realizes who Thomas is.

We are all aware of Thomas the basketball player. He was one of the stars in the 1980s with the Detroit Pistons. Although overshadowed at times by the likes of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jordan, Thomas made a name for himself and the Pistons by being part of the "Bad Boys" of the NBA.

Great. That's all nice.

After retiring in 1994, Thomas attempted to tackle the sport in the front office and on the sidelines. Despite a successful stint with the Toronto Raptors—drafting the likes of Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady—and Indiana Pacers, earning three playoff appearances, Thomas' endeavors and moves have been, unfortunately, laughable.

This is a guy who demanded respect on the court and now suddenly found himself failing off of it.

In 2000, Thomas took over the Continental Basketball Association after purchasing it for $5 million. The league abruptly folded after Thomas declined an offer from the NBA to become the official minor league of the NBA. The offer? It was for $11 million. That is what we call a profit.

Instead, he declined and the league came to a close with Thomas under fire for running the league into the ground.

This, as we all know, wouldn't be the first time that Thomas had his troubles running things.

Thomas joined the Knicks as President of Basketball Operations in 2003 after his coaching stint in Indiana. Over time, Thomas began piling up inane contracts with nothing to show for it.

Vin Baker? Here's our mid-level exception. Jared Jeffries and Jerome James? Here's $30 million each. Who needs some lottery picks? Oh, Chicago, you do? Just give us Eddy Curry back.

There were many more including all of the questionable coaching hires and fires, the trading of Penny Hardaway's expiring contract and Trevor Ariza for Steve Francis, trading for Stephon Marbury and trading away Kurt Thomas.

Oh, and there is that whole sexual harassment suit that Thomas and Madison Square Garden had to deal with.

You want more? He coached the Knicks to a franchise best 59 losses in his last season with the team.

I hate to say someone isn't qualified, but just who were Thomas' references when applying for the job at FIU? I realize that Thomas was a great player, but that doesn't necessarily make him a great leader of men.

And that is the biggest issue at hand with FIU. College kids, namely 18-year-old men coming into college, are impressionable. They are just looking for guidance and you have not entrusted your franchise, program, and school with Thomas.

It's touching that Thomas donated his first-year salary considering he's only owed $12 million dollars from the Knicks. Really, that's a great gesture. But what parent in their right mind would sit there during a recruiting visit and think to themselves, "This is the guy I want to put in charge of my kid's life and development as a man"?

People love to play for guys like Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, and Jim Calhoun. They will do anything for their players. I find it hard to believe that kids will go to bat for Thomas when in the back of his mind he'll be itching to get out of there. The first phone call from a legitimate program Thomas gets, you think he'll tell them he'd rather stay in the Sun Belt Conference?

So, sure, FIU is getting the media attention and ticket sales they want with this hire, but they aren't getting much else. Just ask the Knicks.