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FIU Men's Basketball season ends with thud

While many of you were sleeping, Isiah Thomas' second season came to an abrupt -- and painful -- conclusion at the Sun Belt Conference tournament with a 73-38 rout at the hands of Middle Tennessee.

Now, the inevitable debate begins: Will IT be back for No. 3?

Our media brethern up in New York seem to have made a cottage industry out of Isiah's continuing connections to the Knicks, and no doubt many of those rumors have been just that. But certainly, with a coach with Thomas' pedigree -- and his on-the-record remarks about a longing to get back to the Big Apple -- where there's smoke, there's at least embers, if not an entire fire.

Last week, before the Panthers headed to Hot Springs, I chatted with FIU's head coach about this year -- and of course, got a question in there about his future. For what it's worth, he gave all the right signs about remaining at FIU.

Q: How has this year gone for you?

IT: "Actually, it’s been a good year. In terms of recruiting, in terms of building the program, establishing the way we want to play. I’m very excited about the future, in terms of what we have coming in, what we’ll have staying, what we’ll be able to add. Like Al McGuire said, the best thing is freshmen become sophomores. I think the experience that this group has gotten is definitely going to make them better."

Do you think you're improving as a coach?

"I think you always improve. This is a game you never master, and it’s a game you always try to get better. You always try to learn something new and every game you coach, you get better."

What's one thing that’s surprised you this year?

"I think the level of play in the Sun Belt is very underrated. It’s not a big-man’s league, but 6-7 and under, you better bring a lunch because they scrap and they go after it. The thing that this league doesn’t have is the dominant bigs, but out on the perimeter, you better bring a lunch."

Do you think you'll be a better coach next year?

"Every year in basketball that you have, you get better. You just keep acquiring knowledge. It’s like the more you go to school, the smarter you get. Some people. The longer you do it, the more experience you have. The thing that’s really helped me this year is I’ve learned my kids. I’ve learned what they can and can’t do, and having as many close games as we’ve played, I know who can do what and when they can do, as opposed to having to guess about it."

Do you think you need one or two more guys to emerge?

"That’s all recruiting. This is really our first class, and these guy, when you look at Ferguson, Allen, DeJuan, Taylor, Pack, Bell, these guys, that’s a nice foundation that they have. You add a couple of big pieces to it next year, we have a nice little foundation here."

Do you think there will be more noise surrounding you this summer?

"It seems to always be that way."


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