Isiah Thomas

Report: Richard Pitino hired to replace Isiah Thomas as head coach at FIU

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Anthony Wireman of AllKyHoops.com first reported and other outlets have confirmed that Louisville associate head coach Richard Pitino will replace Isiah Thomas as head coach at Florida International.

Pitino, son of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino, worked under his father for a total of three seasons in two different stints with the Cardinals, having previously been an assistant at Florida, Duquense, Northeastern, and Charleston.

He is a graduate of Providence College and served as the team’s manager under then-head coach Tim Welsh.

The Cardinals reached the Final Four this past season under Pitino’s watch, going 30-10 before losing to eventual national champions Kentucky in New Orleans.

Florida International has struggled in the past three seasons under Thomas, who was fired on April 6. The Golden Panthers went a combined 26-65 in three seasons with Thomas at the helm.

The team made headlines this week, as the basketball team walked out of an awards banquet in protest of Thomas’ firing.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Isiah Thomas’ top recruit defends him on Twitter

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Dominique Ferguson is the best exemplar of the highs and lows of Isiah Thomas’ tenure as head coach at Florida International University, which ended just hours ago. The 6’9″ forward was Zeke’s highest-rated recruit, ranked by Scout.com as the nation’s 16th-best power forward prospect when he signed with the Golden Panthers in 2009. DraftExpress displayed guarded optimism at the time, stating “Ferguson should be able to dominate the Sun Belt conference with his superior physical gifts, but he needs to be coached up significantly before he can be discussed further.”

And there you have it. Ferguson’s gifts warranted attention, but he was raw and needed effective coaching. After two seasons at FIU under Thomas, did he get it? Ferguson never broke the 10 points per game barrier in either of his two seasons under Isiah, never shot very well, and didn’t have nearly the defensive impact he should have in a league filled with less talented players. Nonetheless, the sophomore took to Twitter to defend his coach, making the following statements under his @3domferg handle:

“Came here to play for one of the most genuine people I’ve ever met and now these people let him go……I hope I can get my release now.”

“As much stuff as he’s done for this school for FIU to do him like this, he’s done much more things that have changed our lives us as men.”

“That’s wild, cannot wait to get out of this place……I am not coming back.”

Harsh statements, made in a public forum. If Ferguson makes good on his threats, he will no doubt find a home somewhere else.

Of course, Ferguson is young, and his anger may wane. His Twitter timeline devoted just a handful of posts to the Thomas firing, and young Dominique was soon back in goofy spirits. By 9pm ET, he had returned to more quotidian efforts:

“Wha time does 5 guys close”

and the immortal

“Hate that feeling when you think there’s a booger in your nose but you don’t really know”

Ah, youth. So resilient.

Boeheim, Coach K decry Thomas' Knicks' gig

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Isiah Thomas’s new gig may not last much longer.

Doug Benc/Getty

Hired as a special consultant to the Knicks last Friday, the NBA is reviewing if the Florida International coach’s role is against league rules. Team officials aren’t allowed to have contact with players who aren’t yet eligible for the draft, which would seem to put Zeke at odds with his FIU gig.

Some notable college coaches agree.

“It’s a conflict [of interest] either way, from college or from the NBA, I just don’t understand why it wouldn’t be,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told Adam Zagoria. “You know, you’re a college coach involved with kids and the NBA wants your players or evaluations of your players.
“It seems like it’s kind of a conflict a little bit that you’re coaching kids and then recommending them to pro guys.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was more diplomatic, but no less encouraging.

“I would decline to do that just because I shouldn’t be perceived to have an advantage in whatever way over another college coach, so that’s why I wouldn’t to do it,” he said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with it or whatever, I just think that it’s probably better to keep it separate.”

“Have we served as consultants to the pros? Yeah,” Krzyzewski said. “People call us before the draft, ‘What do think of this, what do you think of that?’ I think it’s better to have it like that.”

I’m sure Knicks fans would agree, especially in this instance. They must be dreading the thought of Thomas returning to the Knicks.

The only ones in favor of this whole thing must be FIU. Having a coach who consults for the Knicks – and who happens to be Isiah Thomas -boosts the school’s hoops profile. Now if only Thomas could coach…

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.