I have never played a college sport, but I feel that my years in youth athletics, combined with my moderate grasp of the human psyche, give me the ability to talk about this...
I was 12 years old when I hit my first and only little league home run. Right before the at bat, Coach Cosolito actually pulled me aside and said, “Jared, you can hit this guy, take your shot.”
I am 100% certain that if Coach Cosolito approached me and said “Jared you swing like hot garbage and I hate you” I would have struck out.
Now I’m not trying to cling to my glory days here, but I don’t brush that off as me being a gullible 11 year old. I could just as easily tell you about how I was thrown out while trying to be a hero, stealing a base without the signal which cost my team a berth in the championship game of a national Little League tournament in Cooperstown. Yes, I was indeed that guy.
Ask any athlete in any sport and they will tell you that sports is all about confidence. No one gets in a groove by constantly being told that they are terrible at what they do. In the same token, no coach has ever been successful by pulling a team into a huddle and saying, “Who’s ready to lose tonight guys?!?!”
But somehow before even hitting the court for his first official practice at Florida International University, Isiah Thomas has managed to suck all of the confidence out of his team.
If you haven’t heard the story yet, here is your background.
FIU was invited to participate in the Coaches Versus Cancer Tip-off Classic. They were told that they would be playing either Ohio State or UNC.
A game at Ohio State became part of the schedule until yesterday, when Gazelle Group (the company that coordinates nearly all of these tournaments, sans the NIT and big dance) announced that there was a scheduling change, and FIU would be playing their other possible opponent, UNC.
FIU was not happy about this.
In fact, they have now publicly stated that they will boycott the event if Gazelle Group doesn’t change back the schedule. Instead of citing travel expenses or a million other possible excuses, Isiah Thomas did what is single handedly considered the biggest mistake in all of coaching.
“Maybe in 2010, 2011 we can play North Carolina, but not this year.”
Conceding to a better team before you even know your final roster? Sounds confident. But what had me doing the double take was what Thomas had to say when he talked about playing Ohio State, before FIU’s opponent was changed.
“If at some point and time you're going to be able to compete with the big boys, you might as well jump right into the fire and get started.”
So either Ohio State is secretly Isiah Thomas’s favorite basketball program, or what he really meant by that quote was…
“If at some point you find a big name opponent who lost all of their key players in the last two seasons to the NBA Draft, you might as well jump right into the fire and get started.”
What’s funny to me is that you are hearing a lot of big wigs at the FIU athletic department talk right now. But you aren’t hearing from the student athletes on the basketball team. If you were, you’d probably hear something along the lines of:
“I don’t know why coach would say that we can’t beat someone.”
I guess it makes you wonder if this was what all of his Knicks pep talks sounded like.