How the Mighty Have Fallen, Starring Isiah Thomas at Florida International

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↵"It wasn't supposed to be like this," Francisco Alvarado of the Miami New Times writes about Isiah Thomas' rocky tenure as the head coach of Florida International. And for good reason: who wants this set of facts and figures? ↵

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↵⇥Empty blue seats outnumber Golden Panthers fans 50 to 1. ↵
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↵⇥But in the first three losing games of the Golden Panthers' season, the Hall of Famer's team was outscored 268-191. Its overall record stands at an abysmal 7-19. In the Sun Belt Conference, a middling group of unrated basketball teams, FIU is last in the East Division with a 4-9 tally. ↵
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↵⇥The gridiron Panthers had a dismal year, and the basketball team has averaged a paltry 120 attendees per home game this season. The arena seats 6,000. ↵
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↵⇥In fact, FIU's home attendance is definitely not a good recruiting tool. According to information the school provided, the Golden Panthers have sold a total of 1,075 individual tickets for nine home games played between this past November 17 and January 23. But the school has seen a boost in season ticket sales from last year's 207 to this year's 507. ↵
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↵⇥In fact, bringing in the disgraced ex-Knicks boss is beginning to look like a sign of desperation from a university that has struggled to validate its investment in competing in big-time college athletics. ↵
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↵Alvarado is being generous with that "beginning" in the last sentence. While Mario Cristobal builds the FIU football team (8-16 in 2008 and 2009 after being 1-23 in 2006 and 2007) and comes without baggage, Thomas is floundering even with a few good junior college players. The Golden Panthers went 13-20 last year; to even get to that mark this year, they will need to win out in the regular season and win one game in the Sun Belt Tournament. This looks more and more like a failed ploy to goose ticket sales with every loss. ↵

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↵And though Thomas is donating his salary back to the school and has been able to wrangle a few good recruits for the 2011 class, his presence is not the "positive impact on our university as a whole" that former FIU president Modesto Maidique prophesied at his hiring. That would require, at a minimum, equal buzz at the school to the negative response the team gets on the road. Unless the dull hum of averaging less than 120 tickets sold for each home game counts as equal buzz, I think Isiah's on the losing side of the ledger. ↵

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↵There's still time to turn everything around, and those touted recruits could be the key in 2011. Right now, though, Isiah Thomas is lost in the wilderness. And that cannot be what anyone involved with the decision to bring him to FIU wanted. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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