Is it just me or does it seem like every major sports season is starting earlier and earlier these days?

Regular season college basketball gets underway tonight with four games on the schedule, highlighted by defending champion North Carolina tipping off the season with a match-up with Florida International and their new head coach Isiah Thomas. Top 25 teams California, Ohio State and Syracuse also get underway tonight in games against inferior opponents as a part of the Coaches v. Cancer event.

The last time Thomas was involved in a college basketball game, he also faced the Tar Heels, scoring 23 points in the 1981 NCAA championship game to lead Indiana to a 63-50 win. Thomas went on to a Hall-of-Fame career as a player for the Detroit Pistons, leading the Bad Boys to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990.  But since he retired from playing, Thomas has had a bit of a checkered career as a coach and executive.  He became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers, but was let go after three uninspiring seasons.  Later, Thomas was an executive with the New York Knicks from 2003-08, coaching them for the final two of five straight losing seasons on his watch. Chants of “Fire Isiah” were ubiquitous during his final season on the bench with the Knicks.

But now, Thomas has reappeared as the coach at tiny Florida International.  He was hired because it is believed that he will be able to recruit top-notch talent to the struggling program because of his high profile, and that appears to be working as he has already received a verbal commitment from highly-touted Indianapolis forward Dominique Ferguson as well as well-regarded point guard Phillip Taylor.  But neither of those players will be able to help out Thomas this season, which figures to be a long one.

But if Thomas is successful this season, even marginally, it will be interesting to see how long he stays at Florida International.  DePaul coach Jerry Wainright’s job is believed to be in danger, and Thomas is a Chicago native.  It would not be a stretch to see him in the running for the Blue Demons’ job if he’s able to make Florida International respectable.