Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ESPN analysts sell souls in Isiah lovefest

Watching the 2009-2010 college basketball opener on ESPNU last night provided a double dose of disgusting.

First off, of course, was having to watch UNC open the season with an easy win. It's bad enough to see Carolina win at all, but then you have to see on an ESPN network, where they're constantly slobbered over, and then they're the only game on, so they get even more attention.

I've mellowed as I've aged, though, and UNC doesn't set my teeth on edge as the team used to. It doesn't hurt that I've moved far enough way from North Carolina that I don't have to hear shit from waves upon waves of bandwagon fans that wouldn't know a Tar Heel from an ingrown hair on their ass.

No, the real problem last night was the complete sellout of the ESPNU crew in displaying unfettered love and affection for Florida International coach Isiah Thomas. I wish I had DVR'd the game so that I could provide you with exact quotes here, but trust me, it was disgusting.

Over and over again, the guys in the booth spoke to Thomas' overall wonderfulness: What a great smile! What a good guy! My, how he's overcome adversity! Gee, he's a great teacher!

What? The guy's legacy over the last dozen years resembles the same legacy a tornado leaves behind in an Oklahoma trailer park. He completely ruined the New York Knicks with asinine personnel moves and insane spending habits. On top of that, he was embroiled in legal issues regarding sexual harassment and a general lack of control over his team, especially Stephon Marbury. Now it turns out he's even pissed off Magic Johnson, who in his new book apparently slams Thomas for spreading false rumors about his sexuality (without having read the book I'm assuming Magic is accusing Thomas of suggesting he was gay, hence contracting HIV via homosexual practices - brilliant).

So what did ESPNU do? They gave Thomas a friendly platform from which to deflect these rumors and appear like a martyr. He denied being the catalyst of such talk, which is fine I guess, but he followed that by saying that he such a gosh darn wonderful compassionate fella that Magic could come groveling back to him any time for forgiveness. And the U just sat back and watched. Funny, compassion never seemed to be a word to describe him in New York, or Indianapolis, or Detroit for that matter.

And most laughable of all was how they let Thomas prattle on about how UNC is the model for which he wants to use for the FIU program. Does anyone believe this? What made the UNC program what it is is that it's had a total of five head coaches over the past 58 years. Isiah won't be at FIU for 58 months. It wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't last 58 weeks more.

If Thomas can turn the Panthers program around, he'll use that success merely as a steppingstone into a more high-profile job; it's hard to believe anyone thinks he would've taken the job for any other reason. His reputation has been completely ruined after his infamy in New York, and this is clearly his attempt to rise from the ashes - with lots of media help, apparently (and inexplicably). I can't believe there's a single person on this planet who thinks Thomas has any long-term plans to remain in Miami - unless it's as coach, president or GM of the Heat, or maybe the U.

More likely, however, is that Isiah will stamp his brand of boorishness on the university and get the boot. I predict that in three years or less, Thomas will be embroiled in some type of recruiting or academic scandal at FIU. He will bring in players totally out of place in the university's highly selective, research-based environment - most likely thugs with plenty of baggage. I guarantee you there will be at least one ugly on-court altercation from Thomas or his players - a nice addition to the football team's embarrassing behavior vs. Miami a couple years back. It's so easy to see these things coming.

I'm astounded that FIU ever hired this guy to begin with. This isn't some McCollege that needs cheap publicity for ticket sales. While the Panthers will most likely never be renown for their athletic prowess, the school is one of the largest universities in the United States and has an outstanding academic reputation as an institution of research. It's really sad that the administration felt it had to compromise these standards in hiring Thomas, given his nasty baggage. It will be interesting to see how the school spins its way out of the inevitable problems with him and his team, coming down the pike.

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