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:Not to be confused with Isaiah Thomas (born 1989).


Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas (2019)
Thomas speaking at the 2019 NBA Awards
Personal information
Born  April 30, 1961 (1961-04-30) (age 63)
  Chicago, Illinois
Listed height  6 ft 1 in (1.86 m)
Listed weight  180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school  St. Joseph
 (Westchester, Illinois)
College  Indiana (1979–1981)
NBA Draft  1981 / Rnd: 1 / Pnck: 2
Position  Point guard
Career history
As player:
As coach:
As executive:
Career highlights and awards
As player:
Coaching record
Overall record  213-288
 187-223 (NBA)
 26-65 (NCAA)
Best Record  48-34 (2002–03 NBA season)
Titles  0

Isiah Lord Thomas III (born April 30, 1961) is an American former basketball coach and Hall of Fame retired point guard who played professionally for the Detroit Pistons from 1981-1994. A 12-time NBA All-Star, Thomas was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Thomas has also been a professional and collegiate head coach, a basketball executive, and a broadcaster.

Thomas played college basketball for the Indiana Hoosiers, leading them to the 1981 NCAA championship as a sophomore and declaring for the NBA draft. He was taken as the second overall pick by the Pistons in the 1981 NBA Draft, and played for them his entire career, while leading the "Bad Boys" to the 1988–89 and 1989–90 NBA championships, being an MVP for the latter.

After his playing career, he was an executive with the Toronto Raptors, a television commentator, an executive with the Continental Basketball Association, head coach of the Indiana Pacers, and an executive and head coach for the New York Knicks. He was later the men's basketball coach for the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers for three seasons from 2009 to 2012. In early May 2015, amidst controversy, Thomas was named president and part owner of the Knicks' WNBA sister team, the New York Liberty, subsequent to the re-hiring of Thomas's former Pistons teammate, Bill Laimbeer, as the team's coach.

Early Life[]

Thomas was born on April 30 1961 in Chicago, and was the youngest of 9 children. He started playing basketball at 3 years old and would frequently dribble and shoot baskets during halftime at the Catholic Youth Organisation games.

During his junior year, Thomas led his school, St. Joseph High School to the state finals and was one of the most highly touted prospects of his class

College career[]

Thomas was recruited to play college basketball for Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. Although he received mail saying Knight tied up his players and beat them, he did not believe the rumors. Although one of Thomas' brothers once engaged in a shouting match with Knight when the coach came to their home, Thomas' mother decided that Knight's disciplinary style of coaching would be beneficial for her son.

Thomas had a lot of disagreements with his coach early on, and was forced to adjust to his style. It is reported that during the 1979-80 season, Knight kicked Thomas out of practice.

However, Thomas was quickly able to improve his skills and became a favorite to both Knight and Indiana fans. His abilities even caused the strict Knight to adjust his coaching style. The next year, Knight gave Thomas complete control of the offense and Thomas responded very well, helping lead his team to the NCAA championship in 1981.

Professional career[]

In the 1981 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons selected Thomas with the 2nd overall pick. The rookie made an immediate impact on a struggling Pistons team, making the 1982 All star team and the All Rookie First Team. In the first round of the 1984 playoffs, Thomas would face off against premier scorer Bernard King and the New York Knicks. In the elimination game, Thomas would score 16 points in 94 seconds, pushing the game to overtime, but the Knicks would ultimately hold on to the game and the series.

During the 1985 playoffs, Thomas and the Pistons got to the Conference Semi Finals, where they lost in 6 games to the Boston Celtics, led by Larry Bird. This would mark the beginning of the Celtics-Pistons rivalry of the late 1980s. In 1987, the Pistons made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they faced the Celtics again. Detroit was able to tie the series at 2 games apiece but Thomas would commit a costly turnover at the end of Game 5, which resulted in the Pistons losing the game and eventually, the series.

The next year would see Thomas lead the Pistons to their first Finals appearance in 32 years. They would face the Los Angeles Lakers, and after taking a 3-2 lead, Thomas would have one of the most memorable and heroic moments in NBA history, when he scored 25 points in the 3rd quarter (an NBA Finals record for most points scored in a quarter) despite having severely sprained his ankle earlier in the game. Nonetheless, the Pistons lost that game by one point due to a highly controversial foul call on Bill Laimbeer at the end of the game, and the Pistons would go on to lose the series in Game 7.

In the 1989 season, Thomas led his team to a 63-19 record, while defeating the injury laden Celtics and Michael Jordan-led Bulls in the playoffs. Their physical and brash style of play led to their nickname being "The Bad Boys". Detroit would face the Lakers once again in the Finals, this time sweeping them to capture their first of 2 back to back championships. Joe Dumars was named the Finals MVP.

In 1990, after defeating Jordan's Bulls in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons defeated the Blazers in the Finals, with Isiah Thomas being voted as the Finals MVP. Although the Pistons would play well for the following couple of seasons, there path was blocked by the Bulls dynasty of the 90s. In 1992, Thomas would suffer a career-ending Achilles Tendon injury.

Coaching Career[]

Indiana Pacers[]

From 2000 to 2003, Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers, succeeding Larry Bird, who previously coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference title. Thomas attempted to bring up young talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington, and Jeff Foster. But under Thomas the Pacers were not able to stay at the elite level as they went through the transition from a veteran-dominated, playoff-experienced team to a younger, less experienced team. In Thomas's first two seasons with the Pacers, the team was eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets, both of whom eventually made the NBA Finals.

In his last year with the Pacers, Thomas guided them to a 48–34 record in the regular season and coached the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. As the third seed, the Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the sixth-seeded Boston Celtics. With blossoming talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley, along with the veteran leadership of Reggie Miller, some perceived Thomas's lack of coaching experience as the Pacers' stumbling block. In the off-season, Bird returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations, and his first act was to replace Thomas with Rick Carlisle.

New York Knicks[]

On December 22, 2003, the New York Knicks hired Thomas as President of Basketball Operations.[1] Thomas was ultimately unsuccessful with the Knicks roster and fanbase. At the end of the 2005–06 season, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the league and the second-worst record. He traded away several future draft picks to Chicago in a deal for Eddy Curry including what turned out to be two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Joakim Noah.


A press conference for Isiah Thomas at the U.S. Century Bank Arena at Florida International University in Miami.

On June 22, 2006, the Knicks fired coach Larry Brown, and owner James Dolan replaced him with Thomas on the condition that he show "evident progress" or be fired.

During the following season the Knicks became embroiled in a brawl with the Denver Nuggets that Thomas allegedly instigated by ordering his players to commit a hard foul in the paint.[2] He was not fined or suspended; NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he relied only on "definitive information" when handing out punishments.[3] Later in the season, nine months after Dolan had demanded "evident progress", the Knicks re-signed Thomas to an undisclosed "multi-year" contract.[4] After Thomas was granted the extension, the Knicks abruptly fell from playoff contention with a dismal finish to the season.

During the 2007 NBA Draft, Thomas made another trade, acquiring Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau from the Portland Trail Blazers for Steve Francis and Channing Frye.

Thomas also compounded the Knicks' salary-cap problems by signing fringe players such as Jerome James and Jared Jeffries to full mid-level exception contracts. Neither player saw any significant playing time and both were often injured and highly ineffective when able to play.

Despite the constant criticism he received from Knicks fans, Thomas maintained that he had no intention of leaving until he turned the team around, and predicted he would lead the Knicks to a championship, stating that his goal was to leave behind a "championship legacy" with the Knicks, just as he had done for the Detroit Pistons. This prediction was met with widespread skepticism.[5]

On April 2, 2008, Donnie Walsh was introduced to replace Thomas as President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. Walsh did not comment definitively on whether Thomas would be retained in any capacity.

One night after the Knicks tied a franchise record of 59 losses and ended their season, news broke that in talks with Walsh the week before, Thomas had been told he would not return as Knicks head coach the following season. He was officially "reassigned" on April 18 "after a season of listless and dreadful basketball, a tawdry lawsuit and unending chants from fans demanding his dismissal." Thomas posted an overall winning percentage of .341 as head coach of the Knicks, fifth lowest in team history. As part of the reassignment agreement, Thomas was to serve as a consultant to the team, reporting directly to Walsh and banned from having contact with Knicks players on the rationale that he could undermine the new head coach.


On April 14, 2009, Thomas accepted an offer to become the head basketball coach of FIU, replacing Sergio Rouco after five losing seasons. Thomas announced that he would donate his first year's salary back to the school, saying, "I did not come here for the money."

After posting a 7–25 record in his first season at FIU, on August 6, 2010, Thomas announced that he was taking a job as consultant to the New York Knicks, while keeping his position as head coach at FIU. According to the New York Daily News, "nearly every major media outlet panned the announcement of Thomas' hire", and it led to a "public outcry" among fans. In a reversal on August 11, Thomas announced that he would not be working with the Knicks because holding both jobs violated NBA bylaws.

Thomas finished his second season at FIU with an 11–19 record (5–11 in conference games). On April 6, 2012, FIU fired Thomas after he went 26–65 in three seasons. Under Thomas, FIU never won more than 11 games in a season.

  1. Pincus, David (August 9, 2012). "12/22/2003 – Knicks hire Isiah Thomas". Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  2. "Melo apologizes; Isiah reportedly under investigation". December 18, 2006. Retrieved April 27, 2020. "Though Thomas acknowledged telling Anthony not to go into the paint, he said Monday he meant it not as a threat but as a lecture on sportsmanship." 
  3. "Suspensions total 47 games from Knicks-Nuggets fight". December 18, 2006. Retrieved April 27, 2020. 
  4. "Thomas shows 'evident progress'; earns new deal" (in en). March 12, 2007. Retrieved April 27, 2020. 
  5. "Isiah Thomas predicts a title". Daily News (New York). January 3, 2008.