Thomas 'disappointed' by dismissal from FIU
MIAMI (AP) -- Isiah Thomas said Saturday
that he is deeply disappointed by his firing by Florida International,
adding that he felt the long-struggling program was on the verge of a
The Basketball Hall of Fame player was
fired Friday. He went 26-65 in three years, and FIU's program hasn't had
a winning record since 1999-2000.
"I am deeply disappointed that I wasn't
given the time to finish the job of building FIU into one of the
nation's top basketball programs," Thomas said in a statement released
to The Associated Press. "The foundation for success had been laid and
we were looking forward to having our breakout year, with another strong
Other than a three-line statement
released Friday to announce Thomas' firing, FIU officials have not made
any other public comments about the move.
Thomas' former players, though, are not pleased.
"Everyone really, really took it hard,"
DeJuan Wright, FIU's leading scorer this past season, said Saturday.
"It hasn't settled in. Besides basketball, everyone from top to bottom
on our team looked up to coach Thomas. He has really helped us as men. I
know that's cliche to say, but it's really, really true. He's really
helped all of us as men, in the classroom and making sure we're doing
the right things."
Wright was among several players who
were working out in the FIU gym on Friday with Thomas, when news of the
coach's firing broke.
Not long afterward, Wright and those
same players were helping Thomas carry hastily packed boxes from his
now-former office to his car.
"Surreal. It was bad, man," Wright said. "We're hurt. We're upset. It is a business, but this hasn't sunk in yet at all."
Thomas had two years remaining on his
contract, one where he waived any base salary for his first season in
part because of financial problems within the school's athletic
department at the time. He also was still collecting about $12 million
from the remainder of his contract with the New York Knicks, the team he
was with as coach and president before a series of on- and
off-the-court missteps led to him starting over at FIU.
The Knicks tried to hire Thomas after
his first FIU season as a consultant. Thomas said he ultimately declined
that position because it would violate certain NBA rules, including
those prohibiting team officials from having contact with college
players who are not eligible for the draft, but several FIU officials
also worked hard to convince him to stay.
Less than two years later, he was fired.
"Coaching FIU had everything to do with
my love of the game and the truly rewarding work of helping to shape
the character of our players," Thomas said.
Thomas cited several accomplishments in
his statement, including that 17 of a possible 19 players will have
graduated by the end of this academic year, his helping organize a
charity game with NBA players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade during
the lockout that raised $100,000 for scholarships for future FIU
students and that the school started a collaboration with the University
of California "to educate our athletes about the importance of
It's unclear how many players who came
to FIU to play for Thomas will choose to stay. The school has not
divulged if any players have already asked to be released from their
letters of intent.
Also unknown: How many recruits who had
committed to FIU will actually sign with the Panthers. Thomas said FIU
planned to sign four of the Florida's top 50 players this season, who
could have potentially lined up with two returning Sun Belt
all-conference players, a pair of 7-footers and other newcomers from
Chicago, Baltimore and Wyoming.
"He was building," Wright said. "Rome
wasn't built in a day. I really think next year, they had a great
chance, more than any other class coming in to turn that corner. It's
just unfortunate that he doesn't get to at least finish what he