This is an article from the May 18, 2009 issue
The former Pistonsguard and Pacers coach was let go as Knicks coach and president in 2008. He isthe new coach at Florida International.
Dan Patrick: Whatmade Chuck Daly a good coach?
Isiah Thomas: Hehad great patience. When he came to [the Pistons] we were young, and a lot ofthe personalities hadn't developed yet. Rodman wasn't Rodman, Laimbeer wasn'tLaimbeer. He let us grow. He let us make mistakes.
DP: He looked likea businessman, but you guys had a rough style. That's some contrast.
IT: He's veryfiery inside. And there wasn't any other way we could have won. He wanted us tobe a tough defensive team. If you remember, we led the league in scoring at onepoint. We scored the most points in history [for one game], against Denver. Andhe brought us from a great offensive team to a great defensive team, a totaltransformation. That speaks volumes for his patience.
DP: Why did youtake the job at Florida International?
IT: I lovebasketball. It really is that simple. I love being around the game, I loveteaching the game.
DP: How surprisedwere you when they called you?
IT: It wasdefinitely out of the blue. I was looking to get into college basketball, but Ihadn't thought about FIU.
DP: How do yourebound after what happened with the Knicks?
IT: You just getback up and you start doing it.
DP: But you're notused to failure. That has to be humbling.
IT: Well, it'sdefinitely humbling when you fail. I tried as hard as any human being couldpossibly try to win in New York. I gave it everything that I could give, and Ididn't succeed. I, like many others, have failed there.
DP: What do youhope to accomplish as a college coach?
IT: I want to makesure that all our kids are educated. You teach them the correct way to playbasketball and you turn out gentlemen.
DP: If I'm aparent and you come to talk to my kid, is there anything I can't ask you?
DP: So if I say,"Did you try to commit suicide, what is your mental health, how are youfeeling?"
IT: Unfortunately,we have our ups and downs. Nothing is off limits. You can ask, and I'll answerit as honestly as I can.
DP: How would youanswer that, if I said, Did you try to commit suicide?
IT: Well, Ianswered that before, and the answer is no. With all due respect to the chiefof police, he didn't know what was going on with my daughter, who had gone tothe hospital earlier in the day. [On Oct. 24, 2008, Thomas was taken to thehospital after an accidental sleeping pill overdose. Thomas said it was hisdaughter who needed medical attention, which led Harrison police chief DavidHall to accuse Thomas of "throwing her under the bus."] I was justconcerned about taking care of my family.
DP: When does Kobeget to the point at which I can include him in the conversation of greatestplayer of all time?
IT: For me, thereare two greatest players of all time, Jordan is 1-A and Kareem is 1-B. BeforeJordan, it was Kareem carrying our league. Somehow, he's gotten misplaced inhistory. When people talk about basketball, they don't talk about himanymore.
DP: Do you haveunfinished business in the NBA?
IT: I don'tbelieve so.
Ryan Howard andhis Phillies teammates were deeply moved by the loss of longtime broadcasterHarry Kalas, who died last month of heart disease. Kalas, recognized by hissignature deep, raspy voice, was a smoker. Howard told me how the team honoredKalas before the first game after his death: They had a team smoke. "It wasa little shout-out to HK," Howard told me. "He loved everyone."Howard then homered in the game.
Angry Dodgers fanslit up my show's hotline last week, upset about how much they had sunk intoseason tickets to watch Manny Ramirez. One spent 11 grand. Maybe it's time forbaseball to start worrying that fans will file a class-action suit chargingconsumer fraud. Can you imagine the parade of witnesses? Bonds, Canseco,McNamee, Radomski, Selig. Call them all.
Line of theweek
Charles Barkleydiscussed his love-hate relationship with golf: "If I could find the guywho invented that game, I'd beat the hell out of him." I imagine if thatguy saw Charles's swing, the feeling would be mutual.
THE FINE PRINT:Big couple of weeks for geldings. First Mine That Bird, then Manny.
Hear Dan announcethe week's Got It Done Award every Monday.
Now Hear This
Listen to the podcasts at danpatrick.com/interviews
1. Terry Francona discusses life with a slugger—BigPapi—who's not slugging any more.
2. Tony Stewart talks wrecks.