Cayman already is familiar with Florida International University.
Many young adults choose to go there for tertiary education and come back to contribute to Cayman society.
Now the school looks enticing on a sports standpoint, especially for Cayman’s budding hoopsters.
This week the university announced the hiring of NBA legend Isaiah Thomas as its head basketball coach.
Thomas is known for his playing days during the 1980s with the Detroit Pistons where he won two NBA titles and established the Mo-town club as the original NBA ‘bad boys.’
From there he got into coaching at the start of the new millennium and had initial success by leading the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs for three straight seasons.
After that things went downhill with the New York Knicks when he was team president and head coach as the team failed to have a winning record in his tenure.
If that were not enough, Thomas was marred in controversy. The biggest hiccup was a sexual assault case made against him by a former female employee that saw the owner of Madison Square Garden pay out $11.6 million.
Now Thomas takes over a Division One team that hasn’t had a winning record in a decade. In fact the Golden Panthers have lost 20 or more games in three of the last four seasons.
Already optimism is over-flowing in Miami. The school’s athletic director feels Thomas can take the basketball program to the next level while the school president sees his hiring as a move towards getting more national exposure.
Even a rival college coach at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton feels his hiring is sure to help with recruiting for all South Florida schools.
Even with Thomas’ past it’s hard to argue against their logic. Coaching transactions are half about finding success as it is about nabbing publicity.
Based on his history in Indiana he can produce a winning side. Granted New York was abysmal but half of the worries there encompassed player egos and management issues in terms of players and overall budgeting.
FIU presents a much simpler proposition. All Thomas has to do is show up and be positive and straightforward in his recruiting and coaching. Based on the fact that Floridian schools are a hub for young sports talent getting good players to work with will take care of itself.
The lack of inflated egos and financial constraints where players are considered should allow Thomas to focus on coaching and create some level of turnaround at FIU.
As far as Cayman is concerned this is an encouraging development. Local basketball is always pushing to send young talents to school abroad. What better fit than a school close to home, with a proven track record among locals with a legendary hoops coach to boot.
If that weren’t enough local hoops figures like Collin Anglin and Joel Jefferson went to school there.
About the only thing that could hamper seeing Cayman kids on TV playing under Thomas is money. Like all colleges the tuition and fees at FIU continue to rise.
For the 2008-2009 academic year the approximate cost of an education (tuition plus room and meals) at the school for a Caymanian (who would be seen as an international student) is over US $26,000. Moreover athletic scholarships have strict guidelines and are ultra-competitive.