clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

A Brief History of the Debuts of Isiah Thomas

So apparently, Florida International's new coach is a man of some renown. And he may just suit up and take the court, judging by the advance coverage of the game. But on the bench or on the court, this will be a first for Thomas, so I figured it was worth seeing how he managed previous hardwood debuts.

First Game with Indiana (1979): In Thomas' first exhibition game, the Hoosiers beat the Soviet National team 78-50. Bob Knight was pleased. They also won their first regular season game, over Miami of Ohio 80-52, and went on to a 21-8 record and a Sweet Sixteen appearance. I can't find the details of Thomas' performance, but we can assume it was pretty good.

First NBA Game with the Pistons (1981): An unqualified success. Thomas had 31 points and eleven assists as the Pistons beat the Milwaukee Bucks 118 to 113. Detroit would go on to a 39-43 record for the season, a significant improvement over the previous year's 21-61. 

First Draft with the Toronto Raptors (1995): The Raptors took Damon Stoudamire with the 7th pick, and Jimmy King with the 35th. Stoudamire was Rookie of the Year and had a long, if often unnoticed career, which included being pulled over for driving under the influence of marijuana with Rasheed Wallace in Portland. King was out the league after two seasons. Looking at the draft, there wasn't any obvious superstars he overlooked.

First Game as Coach of the Pacers (2000): The Pacers lost to the San Antonio Spurs 98 to 85. They'd go on to a 41-41 record and lose in the first round of the playoffs to the 76ers. 

First Draft with the New York Knicks (2004): The Knicks only had a second round pick, where at 43, they took Trevor Ariza. Ther first round pick had been traded to Phoenix two weeks into his tenure as part of a nine-player deal that brought Stephon Marbury, Penny Hardaway and Cezary Trybanski to New York. Ariza played all eighty games his rookie season for the Knicks, who went 33-49.

First Game as Coach of the Knicks (2006): The Knicks needed three overtimes to make it past the Memphis Grizzlies, winning 118-117. The team went 33-49 that season as well, and it was the better of his two seasons at the head of the bench. 

All in all, a workmanlike record, but nothing UNC can't overturn. Although there's one more first worth noting; Thomas's first game against North Carolina, in December of 1979. UNC won, 61 to 57. Thomas wouldn't get a win against the Heels until his third and final matchup, a game of some importance, if I recall.