KEY POINTS

  • Former CBA coach reveals how Isiah Thomas lowered the boom after buying the league
  • After his retirement, Thomas held executive positions in several NBA teams 
  • Ex-Rockford Lightning tactician claims that Thomas fired all coaches of the CBA

Isiah Thomas, a two-time NBA champion, is undoubtedly someone basketball fans will remember.

However, that is limited on the basketball court only given his track record of holding front office jobs.

Thomas had the chance to lead organizations, even leagues at one point in his life.

He was the first general manager of the Toronto Raptors and held the same post as part of the New York Knicks.

But perhaps one of the biggest things the former Detroit Piston ever took on was buying the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in 1999 for $9 million.

The investment did not pay off as the CBA declared bankruptcy in 2001 and folded, according to a report by the New York Times.

“The league office budget went from $2.1 million to $4.3 million,'' Rich Coffey, the former general manager of the [Fort Wayne] Fury said. ''Nobody in the league office, except the head of operations, knew anything about minor league sports, which is very grass-roots, something you can't cookie-cut, because each market is distinctive."

Aside from Coffey, there were a lot of other people who also had their forgettable memories of what happened to the CBA at the time. One of them is Chris Daleo, who initially served as an assistant coach to the Rockford Lighting from 1997 to 1999.

Daleo spoke on the Sports For All PH podcast last Saturday October 9 hosted by Filipino scribes Vincent Juico and Brian Yalung.

“I was an assistant in the CBA. I was assistant with Rockford [Lightning] and the head coach left. The owner comes to me and he goes, 'you’re gonna be my head coach.' Head coach of Rockford? It was crazy, I was so excited,” the former Thai national team head coach shared.

However, that was before Thomas bought the league, something that changed things instantly.

“The next day, he comes out to the press says Isiah Thomas bought the CBA. So my order was out because he was the owner of the league. He wanted to start his own developmental league,” Daleo explained.

Unknown to Daleo, the next bit of news he would get would be a shocker.

“Then a memo came across through a speakerphone in the office. Isiah Thomas and a couple of more guys said they were really excited about what is going on and then [they said] all you coaches are fired. Have a nice day, goodbye,” Daleo recalled.

“I couldn’t believe it, just like that… Isiah Thomas. So I’m not a fan, never talked to me, never gave me an opportunity… nothing. So that was it."

Out of a job, Daleo ended up landing the head coaching position at Barat College, wherein he also serves as the school’s athletic director.

With Daleo focusing on his team that was competing in the national tournament, some surprising news cropped up.

“We were at a national tournament. Leading a school that never had a winning season in their lives and we were in the national tournament. The owner of Rockford calls me up. He says ‘Hey, Isiah Thomas bankrupted the league, I am the new owner again, I’m back I want you to be my coach,'” Daleo narrated.

In 2002, Daleo finally fulfilled his dream to be a CBA head coach for the Rockford Lightning and maintained his steady rise in the basketball world to this day.

Isiah Thomas Isiah Thomas Photo: Getty Images | Al Bello