FIU Director of Athletics Pete Garcia announced today that the Golden Panthers have hired NCAA Champion, two-time NBA Champion and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas as the school’s new men’s basketball head coach.
“We are very excited to have such a legendary athlete and proven winner in Isiah Thomas to lead our men’s basketball program,” Garcia said. “There is no doubt that Isiah will give FIU a tremendous opportunity to take the basketball program to the highest level.”
“We are excited to have Isiah Thomas join the FIU family,” said FIU President Modesto A. Maidique. “This is bigger than basketball and bigger than athletics. Having a nationally recognized coach like Isiah at FIU will have a positive impact on our university as a whole, helping us achieve additional national exposure.”
Thomas, 47, joins FIU after spending three seasons with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers as their head coach (2000-03) and five seasons (2003-08) as the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, the final two of which he also served as the team’s head coach. Thomas guided the Pacers to three consecutive playoff appearances in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
“Coming back to the college game has always been a dream of mine, and I didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to go somewhere where we can build a basketball legacy together,” said Thomas. “A lot of people don’t know that FIU is one of the 25 largest universities in the country, with a tremendously strong alumni community standing behind us. Most important, I think we can get good players from across Florida and around the country to buy into our plan to make this a top-tier basketball program. I’m committed to growing something here, and strongly believe that over time, we’ll put a team on the floor that everyone at FIU can be proud of.”
The Chicago native played college basketball under head coach Bob Knight at Indiana University, where he won the 1981 NCAA Championship and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament. Thomas was then drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the second overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft.
Thomas won the 1989 and 1990 NBA Championships under head coach Chuck Daly, and was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1990. He finished his NBA career with 18,822 points, 9,061 assists and 1,861 steals. During his 14-year NBA career with Detroit, Thomas was selected to be an NBA All-Star 12 times. He was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996, and elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, his first year of eligibility.
In 1987, Thomas was awarded the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award. It is an annual NBA award given since 1975 to a player, coach, or trainer who shows “outstanding service and dedication to the community.” It is the oldest citizenship and community service award in the NBA and is selected by the Professional Basketball Writers Association (PBWA).
After his illustrious career in the NBA, Thomas became part owner and executive vice president for the expansion Toronto Raptors in 1994 before becoming a commentator for the ‘NBA on NBC’ in 1998. Thomas purchased the Continental Basketball Association in 1998 (CBA), and he owned the league for two years.
Thomas has been married to his wife Lynn for more than 20 years. Together they have two children, Joshua and Lauren.