Last Wednesday, after mentioning nearly every politician in Miami-Dade County by name, from Sweetwater Mayor Manual Morono to Hialeah Gardens Mayor Yioset de la Cruz to Miami-Dade Commissioners Dennis Moss and Jose "Pepe" Diaz, and with a crowd of several hundred spectators and press breathlessly awaiting the announcement of the school's brand-new men's basketball head coach, the FIU vice provost ushered in the era with the words, "I'd like to personally welcome Isiah Thompson."
Behind him, Isiah Thomas, 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time NBA Finals winner, and 1990 NBA Finals MVP, laughed uncomfortably and took a sip of coffee, which must have tasted pretty bitter to a man who just 12 months ago was running the most important basketball franchise on Earth. Billy Joel used to say he'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints. In the same vein, it's probably better to have your name written correctly on ugly signs in Madison Square Garden than have it mispronounced at a former commuter school that plays in the Sun Belt Conference and last had a winning record during the Clinton administration.
The fall from grace was punctuated by the revelation of the details of Thomas's contract: just shy of $1.2 million for five years, according to athletic director Pete Garcia. That's a far cry from the $12 million severance Thomas got from the Knicks. Plus, he says he's working for free the first year to offset school-wide budget cuts. In other words, Thomas/Thompson is coming pretty cheap, which will work out swell if he can stay clean the three to four years it will take to bring FIU basketball to national prominence.
When a reporter asked what Thomas would say to the parent of a recruit if that parent, in light of all the trouble Thomas has been in, questioned his character, the coach rattled off the semi-non sequitur: "Fortunately or unfortunately, there are some parents who have named their kids after me."