- Associated Press - Friday, April 6, 2012

MIAMI (AP) - Isiah Thomas arrived at Florida International knowing that he was taking a risk.

Three years later, the school didn’t see enough reward.

The Basketball Hall of Fame player was fired Friday by FIU, after his teams went 26-65 in his three seasons. His hiring came out of nowhere in 2009 _ “No one thought we could pull this off,” FIU director of sports and entertainment Pete Garcia proudly said at the time _ and in the end, so did his firing.

FIU announced the decision in a simple three-line statement.

“We want to thank Isiah Thomas for his three years here at FIU,” Garcia said. “However, we have decided to take the program in a different direction.”

Thomas did not return a call and text message from The Associated Press. He told ESPN that he was conducting individual workouts when he got summoned to Garcia’s office for the firing. Thomas also told ESPN that Garcia did not give him specific reasons why.

“This is the most surprising thing that has happened to me in basketball,” Thomas said. “I (have) never been fired before for basketball reasons. This is the first time.”

If Thomas was shocked, so were some of his players.

“Speechless,” said DeJuan Wright, FIU’s leading scorer this past season.

“What do I do now…never felt so lost!” FIU guard Tanner Wozniak wrote on Twitter moments after the firing was announced. “Why?”

The simplest answer is that FIU didn’t win.

The Panthers were far from being a basketball power before Thomas arrived after a stint as coach and president of the New York Knicks. The school’s last winning season was the 1999-2000 campaign and its winning percentage of .315 since, according to STATS LLC, is 329th out of 344 Division I men’s programs that competed over the last 12 years.

So FIU turned to Thomas, but never won more than 11 games in any of his three seasons.

“We just needed a break here or a break there, and it’s not happening for us,” Thomas said last month, shortly after FIU’s 8-21 season ended with a loss to eventual Sun Belt tournament champion Western Kentucky. “I know we’re getting there. We’ve had so many close games. If we keep working, good things will happen.”

If so, they’ll happen for someone else at FIU.

Story Continues →