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NBA PM: Isiah Thomas Fired by FIU
Posted By Alex Raskin On April 6, 2012 @ 5:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Isiah Thomas’ disappointing three-year tenure with Florida International University is over, the school has announced. The Hall of Famer has been relieved of his duties after amassing a 26-65 record since being hired in 2009.
“We want to thank Isiah Thomas for his three years here at FIU,” executive director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia said in an official statement. “However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”
“This the most surprising thing that has happened to me in basketball,” Thomas told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. “I never been fired before for basketball reasons. This is the first time.
“When I was in Toronto I was trying to buy a team and I left. When I was in Indiana Larry Bird told me that he liked what I was doing but he was closer to Rick Carlisle. The whole thing in New York was crazy. This is the first time someone told me that I was being fired for basketball reasons.”
For paranoid Knicks fans who are fearing interim coach Mike Woodson (who is 10-3 since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation) will be replaced by Phil Jackson or John Calipari next season, Thomas’ firing is only going to make things more chaotic.
Thomas has been rumored to be meddling in the franchise’s affairs since he was “reassigned” in 2008, going from coach and president of the Knicks to a consulting role. Thomas’ successor, now former Knicks president Donnie Walsh, was able to prevent Thomas from having contact with Knicks players, but since Walsh is out of a job and Thomas isn’t restricted by NCAA rules, there appears to be little preventing owner James Dolan from reaching out to his longtime friend.
In case you think the suspicions of Thomas pulling strings behind the scenes are overblown, remember that Woodson and vice president of basketball operations Glen Grunwald were teammates of Thomas’ at Indiana University under coach Bobby Knight; and assistant coach Darrell Walker was hired by Thomas to be head coach of the Toronto Raptors back in 1996.
In other words, three major recent hires have strong connections to Thomas and the role of president of basketball operations is currently vacant.
Thomas’ official time with the Knicks will never be remembered fondly. He was 56-108 in two seasons as coach, but he did most of his damage in the front office where short-sighted trades and signings left the franchise strapped for cap space for years after he left.
Thomas was also implicated in a costly sexual harassment suit and another scandal in which college players were allowed to work out with the Knicks illegally under Thomas’ watch.
In Other Knicks News…
New York has given other teams permission to speak with Walsh, who is still officially a “consultant” with the team (boy that’s a loaded term, huh?).
“Donnie’s very interested in continuing to work on a full-time basis,” Steve Kauffman, Walsh’s agent told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.
The 71-year-old Walsh’s contract expires on June 30th and there is a chance he could return to Indiana where he once famously drafted Reggie Miller, or, as Berger suggested, he could sign with the Magic, Wizards or Trailer Blazers.
How Good is Tyler Zeller?
North Carolina center Tyler Zeller is big (7-0), strong and polished (four years at an elite program), but some skeptics will always question the upside of a player that stays in college until he’s 22—as if that’s some sort of a negative.
The truth is, like fellow four-year Tar Heel Tyler Hansbrough and his teammate, Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, Zeller offers a rare combination of ability and experience—somewhat of a rarity in recent drafts.
“First off, he played four year, he’s seven foot and he’s breathing,” NBA director of college scouting Ryan Blake told HOOPSWORLD. “He’s more than that though. He plays well away from the ball, with the ball and he can pass. He really is a team player, and that’s hard to teach.
“He can be a 10-and-10 like Hansbrough and still develop from there,” Blake continued. “He’s a solid athlete. He plays in a team format. He can be the go-to guy or he can be the guy who sets the screens. Those are very important to any team. That just doesn’t come around that often. If you get him at 10 or 20, he’s still an asset.”
Unproven players like Connecticut center Andre Drummond and Zeller’s younger brother Cody, who plays at Indiana, are soaking up all of the “upside” talk, but it’s the older Zeller who could make an immediate impact in the NBA.
“We may have a guy here that can play on the wing some,” Blake said of Zeller, who made 55.3% of his field goal attempts this season while averaging 16.3 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. “Good outside shooter. Nice legs and knows how to play with confidence.
“You can take a risk on someone that maybe hasn’t proven themselves. If you look at the recent past though, guys like Hansbrough who actually contribute, that’s not a good risk. Whether you’re a stat guy or a scouting guy, you’re going to try to put the pieces of the pie together. Everyone has a difference of opinion. That’s what makes the draft interesting, but he has the versatility that teams crave.”
Zeller can hurt you in any number of ways. He isn’t a shot blocker, but is active enough defensively where that isn’t a huge negative. Zeller also capitalizes on the free throw line where he attempted nearly six shots per game, making over 80% of his attempts as a senior.
Most importantly, Blake says, Zeller knows how to play, and that is shown by his positioning.
“He’s a cerebral player,” Blake said. “He knows what to do at the correct time and he knows how to respond to coaches and that’s important.
“Away from the action, away from target, he gets down there and the other center finds himself out of position,” Blake continued. “Then people are fouling trying to get a better spot and it’s because of his positioning. He doesn’t get the credit for that, but coaches notice.”
Most mock drafts have Zeller as a lottery pick, but that doesn’t mean he can’t slide back. Of course, that only increases the chances he winds up with a winning team.
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