Since Isiah Thomas retired from playing for the Pistons, he's found his way into several high-profile jobs around the basketball world. Strangely, the fact that each one seems to be a bigger disaster than the one that came before hasn't dissuaded employers from giving him another shot. Such is the value of having a recognizable name and an everlasting sheen of two championship rings.
But Isiah's demolition of the CBA and implosion of the Knicks franchise isn't why professors at his latest stop are upset about his hiring. Florida International University's faculty don't care about his lack of business or sideline acumen, they just care about the results of the sexual harassment trial that Thomas lost while he was coach of the Knicks.
Laurie Shrage, the director of women's studies and a philosophy professor, e-mailed the New York Times.
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“Given that a federal district jury found he sexually harassed a colleague and created a hostile working environment, this hire sends the wrong message about F.I.U.’s commitment to the success of all students, faculty, and staff, regardless of their gender."
To which the University's chancellor responded, "Yeah, but women's studies and philosophy don't put asses in seats."
Well, not really but that's why Thomas is there. Florida International University went from one of the hundreds of faceless schools that dot the United States to front page news this week, and Thomas is the biggest reason for it. For a big school, 35,000+ students, it had the profile of a one-room schoolhouse, and now it doesn't. That's not reason enough to excuse any of Thomas' previous behavior, but it does explain why the school ignored it when making their coaching choice.
Will sacrificing moral high ground for an increased profile be worth it? Thomas' history says that it won't be, though failing on the college level is something he hasn't tried yet.